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Surprisingly, the Yankees are the last-place team in this matchup, even if the Tigers have the worst record of the two teams. More importantly, both of these teams struggle to score runs in the first inning, as the Yankees are ranked 21st in the majors with Detroit even further down at 24th in first-inning runs in 2023. While the Yankees have started to get their act together offensively a little bit during this series - and have a chance to complete the sweep on Thursday - the pitching matchup between Clarke Schmidt and Matt Manning should keep both lineups scoreless in the opening inning.
Manning has put together a solid year for the Tigers, going 5-4 with a 3.93 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP. His WHIP is the key stat, as it means that he doesn’t allow a lot of traffic on the base paths, which is helpful in keeping teams scoreless in the first inning. Manning has done a good job of that this season, posting a 2.08 ERA in the first inning across his 13 starts. He’s also allowed just four runs (one earned run) over his last three starts, covering 17.2 innings and conceding just eight total hits during that stretch. In other words, he’s been as sharp as possible and will make it hard for the Yankees to score over the first five-plus innings, including the first inning.
Schmidt, to be fair, has been a little inconsistent this year. He’s had good stretches but currently owns a 4.51 ERA and has pitched to a 5.04 ERA across his five starts in August. However, he has pitched well in the first inning, owning a 3.12 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP in the first inning of games. That’s a good sign for Schmidt being able to start strong against Detroit’s mediocre lineup. Schmidt has thrown a scoreless first inning in five of his last seven starts, so he’s usually able to settle down quickly, which he should be able to do on Thursday, especially in a day game against the Tigers.
This is a tricky game to call because the Nationals are one of the best teams in baseball at scoring runs in the first inning. On the other hand, the Marlins have the best NRFI record in the majors, playing a scoreless first inning 65% of the time. Washington starter Joan Adon also adds an element of mystery into the first inning of this game because he has just 19 career starts - and only four this year. But Miami’s offensive struggles in the first inning combined with Braxton Garrett starting for the Marlins should lead to a scoreless first inning in this game.
It must be noted that the Marlins have scored the second-fewest first-inning runs in the majors this season. Plus, over their last 10 games, the Marlins are averaging just 1.7 runs per game, so they’re lucky to score runs in any inning, much less the first inning. That should make it a little easier to trust Adon in the first inning, especially since he threw six scoreless innings against Miami in his last start. In fact, Adon has tossed a scoreless first inning in three of the four games he’s started in August.
Meanwhile, Garrett has an excellent chance to keep the Nats scoreless in the opening frame, despite Washington’s success scoring early this year. Over his 25 starts this year, Garrett has allowed just eight runs on 22 hits for a 2.88 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP in the first inning. The only caveat is that he gave up a first-inning run against Washington last Friday. However, that’s the only time in his last six starts that the Southpaw has given up a first-inning run, so he should be able to bounce back on Thursday and get back to pitching scoreless first innings.
The Braves and Dodgers are literally the two best teams in baseball at scoring runs in the first inning. Atlanta averages 0.95 runs per game in the first inning while Los Angeles is second in the majors at 0.78 runs per game in the opening frame. The Dodgers are also second in the majors at hitting YRFI while the Braves also hit YRFI more than 50% of the time. The odds are favorable that one of these teams will get on the board in the first inning, even with Spencer Strider and Lance Lynn on the mound.
Obviously, Strider has a decent chance of keeping the Dodgers quiet in the first inning. He’s been exceptional early in games this year, pitching to a 1.73 first-inning ERA across his 26 starts. After all, the guy is 15-4 with a 3.26 ERA in 2023. He’s also been scorching-hot lately, giving up one run on seven hits over his last 21 innings. Strider is also up to 12 consecutive starts without allowing a first-inning run. But as good as Strider is early in games, there are no guarantees when facing Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman, so the Dodgers have a fighting chance to end that streak.
On the other side, Lynn is a huge risk to give up first-inning runs against Atlanta’s powerful lineup. The veteran has an atrocious 8.65 ERA in the first inning of games this year. To be fair, Lynn has been excellent since joining the Dodgers, pitching to a 2.03 ERA in five starts with Los Angeles going 5-0 in those games. However, Lynn has also faced some subpar offensive teams during that stretch. He also allowed a first-inning run against the Red Sox in his last start and now has to face a dynamic lineup that will send two MVP candidates to the plate in the first inning. The Braves are also averaging 6.9 runs per game over their last seven innings, so they will be dangerous and more than capable of scoring early against Lynn.
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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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