Friday night in the bigs. Anything can happen, which is one reason why making some MLB picks can be so maddening at times. We’re here to help in one specific category with a few more first-inning scoring wager recommendations, hoping to win you a few quick bucks.
Red Sox vs Yankees
Let’s start with the big one up in the Bronx, where the Yankees and Red Sox meet for the first of 13 encounters this season. Usually, their matchups have littered the MLB news pages by now, but the new schedule format has fewer divisional meetings.
New York gets to renew the rivalry with its ace on the mound, Gerrit Cole, who owns the best record in baseball at 7-0 after holding the Dodgers to a run in six innings to win his previous start. His one bugaboo, the home run ball, cropped up plenty in May when he allowed two in four separate starts. The five-time All-Star was able to keep Los Angeles in the park and will be facing a Red Sox lineup that has just two home runs over its last seven games (one fewer than the Sox allowed to Jose Ramirez alone on Thursday night).
It comes down to that with Cole. If nothing goes over the wall, he’s usually dominant. His ability to survive the first may come down to that matchup with Rafael Devers, who has six home runs in 32 career at-bats against the veteran right-hander. The fact that Devers hasn’t homered in 15 games while batting .190, and Boston ranking 28th in first-inning scoring percentage on the road (13.3) gives us some confidence in a no-RIFI bet online.
Garrett Whitlock has to hold up his end of the bargain for that to become a reality. It’s been an up-and-down situation for the one-time Yankee prospect, who has made just five starts on the season. His ERA sits at an unpleasant 5.61, but we think there will be a point in which the 26-year-old finds a groove.
He’s allowed a couple of runs in five first innings. It’s been a problematic frame at times for Whitlock, although opponents have a tiny .268 on-base percentage in his first 25 pitches over the course of his career. This will be his first career start against the Yankees, whom he’s held to four runs in 18 career innings with 26 strikeouts.
Working in Whitlock’s favor is the fact that the Yankees are merely average offensively without Aaron Judge around. They’re hitting .180 as a team since he was hurt in Los Angeles. Giancarlo Stanton is just 2-for-14 since he came back to the lineup. As a whole, current active New York hitters are 4-for-37 vs Whitlock.
There’s reason to believe he can get through the first unscathed. Consider that when glancing at the MLB lines.
Mets vs Pirates
The other New York team will be starting a three-game series in Pittsburgh while in a tailspin. The Mets’ losing streak reached six in a row with a brutal 13-10 loss in 10 innings at Atlanta on Thursday in which the Braves scored six times in the final three frames.
Tylor Megill will try to help New York hit the reset button. He’s been so-so through his first 12 starts but has shown a complete lack of command at times. Entering Friday, only eight pitchers have issued more walks than Megill (32). All but two of them have lower opponents’ batting average than Megill (.276), and one of those two (Alek Manoah) was just optioned.
So maybe “so-so” is a stretch. Actually, Megill posted a 5.68 ERA in an eight-start stretch before his last outing against the Blue Jays, against whom he allowed one run while working around five walks.
Eight of those 32 walks – and two hit batters – have come in the first inning. Megill has a 6.00 ERA in that frame, and opponents are batting .313. Pittsburgh is a rather middle-of-the-road first-inning attack, but that’s more than enough against a guy like Megill. There should be some traffic on the bases.
Before Megill steps to the mound, veteran lefty Rich Hill will break it in for him. The one-time Met (as well as 11 other teams) allowed a run in a season-high 6⅔ innings to defeat St. Louis on Sunday.
That was the seventh time this season that Hill allowed two earned runs or fewer. In his five other starts, he’s allowed a total of 25 earned runs. Clearly, it’s been an up-and-down campaign for the 43-year-old.
It’s been mostly down in the first inning, where opponents have gotten to Hill for seven runs in his 12 starts. They have a .982 OPS in that frame, higher than any other inning against him other than the seventh, which he’s reached just twice.
The Mets are the worst first-inning offense out there in terms of scoring percentage (15.9) and runs per first (0.22). The MLB odds should reflect that, but know that those numbers have actually been rising a bit and the team has scored 23 times in its last four games.
Padres vs Rockies
Ah, a Coors Field special. There were five first-inning runs there on Thursday night, and we think there could be some more action as these teams begin their series on Friday.
Austin Gomber won’t strike too much fear into the hearts of the San Diego Padres hitters when he steps to the mound to start this one. He’s sporting an unsightly 6.99 ERA on the season, an 8.64 mark at Coors and a 6.00 figure in the first inning.
Gomber strangely has allowed just two earned runs in 21⅔ career innings against the Padres at home, but that just seems like an aberration. Opponents have a .928 OPS against him in the first inning, and San Diego will get in some good early hacks against him.
Yu Darvish begins things for the Padres in the bottom half. He picked up career win No. 99 his last time out with seven strong innings at home, but the veteran righty has a 6.08 ERA on the road.
Darvish has been pretty smooth in the first inning this year. However, it has historically been his worst inning, as he’s posted a 4.20 ERA in that frame. That’s his highest mark for any inning other than the ninth (10.80).
Like just about everyone out there, Darvish has had his issues at Coors, where he has a lifetime 5.26 ERA. The Rockies have struggled to score much in the first. But some historical success against Darvish, combined with Gomber’s uncertainty, makes this a yes-RIFI option at the sportsbook.