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MLB First Look: Streaking Sox, Whitlock Take Aim at Twins

Perez Leads Rangers at Chicago

We are treated to a boatload of afternoon baseball on Wednesday as many teams transition to their next series. There will be plenty of early-count swinging and “here, just hit this” pitching by players who just want to get out of town and onto the next destination. For our purposes, we’re focusing only on the night action in our daily collection of first-inning scoring suggestions. It’s a limited lot, but we’ll try to give you a couple of bets to take to the sportsbook.

Red Sox vs Twins

Boston has flipped a switch. The Red Sox own the longest winning streak in the American League at six games and they’re averaging 8.3 runs during the surge, turning heads in the MLB news cycle. That’s what Sonny Gray will be up against when he gets the ball for the Twins in this one.

MLB First Look: Streaking Sox, Whitlock Take Aim at Twins
Enrique Hernandez #5 and Christian Arroyo #39 of the Boston Red Sox | David Berding/Getty Images/AFP

If Gray has an issue with his game right now it’s simply that he doesn’t provide much length, often hitting a wall in those middle innings. He does not, however, struggle early in games. In fact, the only time a run came in against him in the first inning was on April 18.

Opponents have five hits in 47 at-bats in the first inning vs Gray. The OPS stands at .341 in that frame. Sure, the Sox had the one breakthrough, but it’s just not something that happens often, and they rank last in the majors in first-inning scoring percentage on the road (11.4).

If you’re into live betting, consider taking Boston to get to Gray in those middle frames and take over this game. As it pertains to RIFI, Gray is a pretty solid choice for a bet online.

Garrett Whitlock will be hoping for some of that Red Sox run support when he makes the start opposite Gray. We predicted a couple of weeks ago that Whitlock would take off, and he sure has, posting a 2-0 mark with a 2.03 ERA over his last two starts. In both starts, the opponent didn’t get on the board until the sixth inning.

The 27-year-old Whitlock, who has yet to issue a first-inning walk this season, owns a 2.57 ERA in the opening frame. He’ll be going up against a Minnesota offense that didn’t score until the eighth inning in Tuesday’s 10-4 loss to the Red Sox and ranks 27th in first-inning scoring percentage (23.0).

The Twins’ first-inning on-base percentage is a lowly .297. We like Whitlock to keep them under wraps early (and possibly late, too). Take that advice into consideration when making your MLB picks.

Rangers vs White Sox

There are loads of red flags here suggesting some early scoring. We’ll take a closer look at a few of them and see if they merit real consideration regarding the MLB lines.

Chicago starter Michael Kopech is known for his early command issues. It’s dogged him throughout his young career, torpedoing starts from time to time. Lately, that hasn’t been an issue, as the hard-throwing right-hander has a 1.77 ERA over his last six starts. Now, four of the seven runs he’s given up in that span did come in one rocky first frame vs. the Angels, but the MLB odds are in your favor if you’re leaning no-RIFI.

Throw in the fact that the Rangers, while a prolific offense at times, don’t always do much in the first inning. Leadoff man Marcus Semien has been in a funk, and the first-inning scoring percentage for Texas has sunk like a stone. Seven weeks ago, the club ranked fifth in that category at 41.4%. It now sits in 22nd at 27.4%.

Semien has a homer in three career at-bats against Kopech, but active Rangers hitters are just 6-for-28 vs. this starter.

He’ll be opposed by Martin Perez, who has struggled for consistency but is showing signs of finding that 2022 All-Star form. He’s allowed two runs or fewer in six or more innings in four of his last six starts, including his last time out against Toronto.

The 32-year-old has been pretty good in the early portions of games. He has a 3.86 ERA in both the first and second innings, holding opponents to a .231 average. The White Sox rank tied for last in the majors in first-inning walks (19) and are 24th in OPS (.673).

Perez will have a chance for a clean first inning as well.

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