How about a little peak behind the curtain here? For traffic purposes, we rarely focus our first-inning scoring suggestions on anything but night games. For Thursday, that limits us to just three contests. So rather than bounce around and pluck out the matchups that make the most sense, we’ll take on the challenge of highlighting each of those three night games. Hopefully, it’ll help you with your online gambling.
Royals vs Rays
Shane McClanahan will try to take another step toward a possible Cy Young Award when he leads Tampa Bay into this series opener against Kansas City. The 26-year-old, who finished sixth in Cy Young voting last year, leads the majors in wins (11) and ERA (2.12) and is a prominent figure in the MLB news cycle.
McClanahan has been even better at home, where he’s 5-0 with a 1.64 ERA while holding opponents to a .177 average. The first inning offers up similar numbers, as the righty has a 1.20 ERA with opponents hitting – again – just .177.
There really isn’t a flaw anywhere to be found, maybe other than the fact that he has given up one home run in each of his last four starts. The Kansas City Royals, however, are 14th of the 15 American League teams in that category. They just don’t hit a lot of those, and there are few other ways to get to McClanahan.
The Tampa Bay Rays’ ace has yielded two runs on only five hits in 12 career innings against Kansas City and we love his chances to start this one with a few goose eggs. The Royals have been a pretty good first-inning offense overall, but they do most of that damage at home.
The Royals will be countering with an opener. That makes for a sticky situation, especially against a Tampa Bay offense that can score in bunches. But we think there’s a chance Jose Cuas gets through his stint unscathed.
For starters (pun intended), Cuas has not allowed only one run in his last 7⅔ innings out of the bullpen, with opponents netting just four hits (three singles and a double). He’s also been pretty clean on the road this year (1.02 WHIP).
The Rays’ first-inning attack has withered a bit in recent weeks. As recently as May 29, they ranked first in the AL in first-inning scoring percentage (43.6). That number now sits at 33.8, third in the AL behind Houston and Kansas City.
The MLB odds makers may see an opener going at Tropicana and adjust the MLB lines to reflect it. We see a chance to steal a quick win with a quality no-RIFI bet online. Obviously, Tampa Bay will be heavily favored overall and should pound away at some point on a weak Kansas City bullpen, something to keep in mind if you’re live betting.
Pirates vs Marlins
Among the many developments that have turned the Miami Marlins into contenders is Braxton Garrett, a 25-year-old first-round pick that is rounding into form in his third season in the bigs.
Garrett has posted a 2.13 ERA over his last seven starts, six of them resulting in wins for Miami. He has 49 strikeouts against only eight walks in that span, giving up 25 hits in 38 innings. That’s a pretty solid set of numbers that indicate a supreme command.
Garrett has finished six innings just twice, so length remains a bit of an issue. Those first five innings are pretty solid, though, with the first being no exception. He has a 2.77 ERA in the opening frame with a sparkling 17-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
That’s what the Pittsburgh Pirates will be up against early in this one. They are a slightly below-average first-inning offense overall, but that’s after opening the season on fire in that inning. Over the past month-plus, they’ve gone from first in the majors in first-inning scoring percentage to their current spot at 21st. Also, Pittsburgh has managed one run in 12 innings in its previous encounters with Garrett.
Like a lot of Pirates, Mitch Keller has leveled off a bit in the past month or so. He has a 6.14 ERA over his last five starts, with opponents putting up a healthy .837 OPS in that stretch. Still, he’s yielded only seven hits in 12 frames over the last two outings and will be facing a Miami offense that leaves something to be desired – especially in the first inning.
The Marlins are last in the majors in first-inning OPS (.579) and 25th in walks, one of the things that can hurt Keller from time to time. He yielded a run in seven stellar innings in his only prior start in Miami.
When making your MLB picks, consider another no-RIFI event in this matchup.
Mariners vs Yankees
The New York Yankees have been able to break out of a funk this week by picking on Seattle’s limited offense in the Bronx. Domingo German, who is looking for a rebound effort after a clunker at Fenway last weekend, will try to make it a clean sweep.
German was rolling before the Red Sox got to him early and often last Friday. He had a 2.20 ERA in his previous seven starts (with a suspension thrown in), but was charged with seven runs in two-plus frames vs. Boston.
We like to think that’s an outlier, as German has been extremely effective. The Red Sox were seeing everything at the plate going into that one and he just took one on the chin. Expect a bounce-back against a Seattle Mariners team hitting .174 during a current 2-4 swoon.
Seattle is 21st in baseball in first-inning scoring percentage on the road (20.6). German has given up seven runs in his 13 first innings, but they’ve come in clumps and he’s had some misfortune; opponents are hitting just .220 in the frame. He had a scoreless first in a win at Seattle last month.
On the other side sits rookie Bryan Woo, who will be up against a Yankees lineup that has done just enough in the first two games of the set but still isn’t producing all that much lately. New York got all their runs on three homers in Wednesday’s 4-2 triumph.
Woo had a rough MLB debut at Texas but was better in his next two outings. He fanned nine and walked none in 5⅔ very good innings against the Chicago White Sox his last time out. The 23-year-old had scoreless firsts in each of those two starts and seven strikeouts in three first innings overall. He’s coming out firing. and a Yankees offense that is very average – at best – without Aaron Judge will be challenged early.
There has been an average of 4.5 runs scored per game (between both teams) over the last six games at Yankee Stadium. They’re all low-scoring affairs these days and we like that to continue for at least one more game.