As far as Mondays go, this is a very active one for Major League Baseball. There’s a doubleheader in Cleveland and high-profile series beginning in Milwaukee, Atlanta and the Bronx. We start our latest edition of the first-inning scoring outlook in the Windy City, where the Houston Astros take the best record in the American League into a set with a Chicago White Sox team eyeing a first place in the American League Central. Settle in and get ready to bet on MLB action.
Astros at White Sox
Johnny Cueto will throw the first pitch of this series as his White Sox look to build off a sweep of Detroit over the weekend. The veteran has been pretty good in the first inning, although he’s had to work around some traffic. Opponents have a .820 OPS in the frame but they’ve scored just five runs in 15 chances.
That kind of makes Cueto a bit of a coin flip in terms of a first-inning wager at the sportsbook, so it’s best to look at a few other factors. For one, he threw seven scoreless innings in his only matchup with the Astros this year. Two, that start occurred in Houston, where the ‘Stros rank as the best first-inning offense in the AL. On the road, they’re quite ordinary, ranking 12th in the majors by scoring 27.1% of the time.
Current Houston hitters are batting a combined .146 against Cueto with just one extra-base hit in 41 at-bats.
He will be opposed by Jose Urquidy, who has started well in his outings. In fact, the .667 OPS against him in the opening frame is the lowest mark in any of the first seven innings. The 27-year-old gave up five runs – including one in the first – against Texas his last time out, ending a string of nine consecutive starts in which he worked at least six frames.
We think that could be an outlier for a guy who was 5-1 with a 2.29 ERA over that solid stretch.
Chicago had one first-inning run in its sweep of the Tigers. Fittingly for a team that doesn’t do much scoring early on, it came on a sacrifice fly. The White Sox are 26th in the majors in first-inning slugging percentage (.351).
First Inning to Score: NO
Mets at Braves
Hard to resist diving into this National League East clash as Atlanta puts a six-game winning streak on the line and tries to inch closer to New York.
There will be a lot of energy to start this one. Not only are these longtime rivals battling it out for divisional supremacy, but the Braves will open the set with rookie Spencer Strider on the mound as he tries to back up a recent dig at the Mets’ bats.
Brandon Nimmo, Starling Marte and Francisco Lindor will certainly have some of Strider’s words in mind when they step into the box in the first inning. They also likely know that the rookie is excellent to begin games, posting a 2.08 ERA and holding opponents to a .152 batting average in the first inning.
That show of early dominance includes 23 strikeouts and just three walks in 15 first innings. The Mets chased Strider in the third inning his last time out, which led to the sour-puss reaction, but he was scoreless through one.
Carlos Carrasco goes for New York in this one as he tries to keep alive an impressive streak. The veteran righty has won five straight decisions while posting a 1.69 ERA, including a quality start and a win over Atlanta two turns ago.
Carrasco, who also spun eight scoreless against the Braves earlier in the year, has given up 12 runs in his 22 first innings, but eight of those 12 came in back-to-back starts against Houston in June. That was before he righted the ship and began to dominate.
Consider Carrasco’s surge and Strider’s adrenaline (if he can keep it under control) when making your MLB picks.
First Inning to Score: NO
Diamondbacks at Giants
We’ve picked on Madison Bumgarner’s first-inning issues in the past, and we’re returning to that well for another shot at the veteran.
Bumgarner has given up 17 runs (16 earned) in his 23 first innings this year. Opponents have a massive .945 OPS in that frame. Seven of the 16 home runs he’s allowed on the year have come in the first.
And this isn’t anything new. The three-time World Series champ owns a career 4.35 ERA in the first inning, far and away the worst of any frame for him. The Giants got to him for two first-inning runs in their only matchup this season and the MLB lines will factor that into the equation.
A bit tougher to pin down is Bumgarner’s counterpart, Alex Cobb. He’s been quite good in the first inning, sporting a 1.53 ERA. But he’s had to escape some jams as he searches for location early on; he’s issued nine walks in his 18 first frames, one of which only lasted two-thirds of an inning before Cobb was chased.
The Diamondbacks got to Cobb for a first-inning tally in one of their two encounters this year. They’ve also scored in the opening frame in each of their last two contests and rank a solid 13th in the majors in the first-inning scoring percentage.
Someone will break through early here, and we think you should consider that while betting online.
First Inning to Score: YES