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Early scoring in this game is far from a slam dunk, especially since it’s a day game. However, the Nationals are surprisingly good at scoring runs in the first inning; they rank sixth in the majors this season. At the same time, Patrick Corbin is unreliable early in games, giving the Red Sox a decent chance to score in the first inning as well. With Chris Sales having a limited track record since returning from injury, the chances of first-inning runs in this game are better than not.
Boston’s lineup hasn’t been particularly potent in the first inning this year. But they have a chance against Corbin, who has a 6.00 ERA and a 1.54 WHIP in the first inning of his 24 starts. To be fair, the lefty owns a 2.38 ERA over his first two starts during the month of August, lowering his ERA on the season to 4.85. However, he did allow a first-inning run in one of those two starts. Corbin also has a troubling history against Adam Duvall, Trevor Story, and Justin Turner, so Boston’s lineup has a good chance to cause trouble for him early in the game.
Meanwhile, it’s tough to get a read on what to expect from Sale. He has virtually no track record against the hitters on Washington’s roster and has only made one start since returning from a more than two-month-long stint on the IL. Sales tossed four scoreless innings in that game before giving up two runs in the fifth inning against the Tigers. But with the Nationals being one of the best teams in baseball at scoring in the first inning, Washington’s lineup has a decent chance to get something going against Sale early.
Pitching aside, these are two of the worst teams in baseball at scoring in the first inning. Cleveland ranks 22nd in the majors in that category while Detroit is even further down at 27. The Tigers are also tied for fifth when it comes to hitting NRFI. Both of these teams struggle to score early, and with Tarik Skubal facing Xavier Curry on the mound, there is no reason to think that will change.
Curry has spent most of the season in the bullpen but was recently moved to the rotation. While he eventually got knocked around for five runs over five innings against the Rays in his last start, he did throw a scoreless first inning. In his two appearances against the Tigers earlier this season, Curry allowed just one run over four innings of work. Considering Detroit’s struggles to score early in games this year, Curry is a good bet to have a scoreless first inning on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Skubal has been outstanding in the first inning of games this season. Granted, he’s made just seven starts in 2023. But since returning from the IL in early July, Skubal has allowed just one unearned run on three hits in the first inning of those seven starts. He’s actually thrown at least four shutout innings in three of his seven starts and has looked incredibly sharp at times despite a couple of hiccups. With the Guardians not having the most potent lineup in baseball, it’s easy to envision Skubal getting through the first inning on Thursday unscathed.
Any game involving the Dodgers is a good bet to have scoring in the first inning, especially when the betting odds are close to even. The Dodgers are the best team at scoring runs in the first inning and the second-best team in the majors at hitting YRFI, doing so at a 57% clip. Even with Corbin Burnes on the mound for Milwaukee, the Dodgers have a chance to score early. Also, while the Brew Crew isn’t as proficient at scoring in the opening inning, facing Lance Lynn increases their chances of getting something going early.
The Dodgers lead the majors in averaging exactly one run per game in the first inning. They are even better at home, averaging 1.37 runs in the first inning. With Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman getting at-bats in the first inning, it’s not hard to see why the Los Angeles lineup is tough to keep under wraps early in games. As for Burnes, he’s been far from invincible early in games. In his 24 starts this year, he owns a 4.88 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in the first inning. The former Cy Young winner has had his fair share of ups and downs in 2023. He also gave up two runs in the first inning against the White Sox in his last start, so there is no guarantee he’ll be able to keep the Dodgers quiet in the first inning on Thursday.
Lynn could have similar problems against a Milwaukee lineup that’s a little less potent than the Los Angeles lineup. In 24 starts this year, Lynn has allowed 24 earned runs on 31 hits in the first inning of games, giving him a first-inning ERA of 9.00. Opposing batters are hitting .301 against him in the first inning, making him an unreliable pitcher early in games, even if the Brewers are middle of the pack in scoring in the first inning of games. To his credit, Lynn hasn't allowed a first-inning run since being traded to the Dodgers. But those starts have also come against the Athletics, Padres, and Rockies. While far from perfect, Milwaukee’s lineup is good enough to snap that streak and get a first-inning run against Lynn and the Dodgers.
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Bryan Zarpentine is a 2008 graduate of Syracuse University and has been working as a freelance writer and editor since 2010. During that time, he has contributed to countless sites while covering baseball, soccer, the NFL, college football, and college basketball.More info on Bryan Zarpentine
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