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Surprisingly, the Nationals are near the top of the big leagues this season at hitting YRFI bets while the Mets are middle of the pack. However, the Mets are also the worst team in baseball at scoring runs in the first inning despite modest improvement in that area in recent weeks. Moreover, the pitching matchup of Josiah Gray and Kodai Senga makes NRFI the better option in this game.
Gray has been a bright spot for Washington this year, as he was the team’s all-star representative. Despite a losing record at 7-8, he’s posted a 3.45 ERA. Gray has also gone six consecutive starts without allowing a first-inning run. His ERA in the first inning this year is a stellar 2.25, almost as good as his second-inning ERA of 1.80. While he’s had some trouble in the past against Brandon Nimmo and Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor is 0 for 8 in his career against Gray. That track record should help Gray navigate another scoreless first inning against the Mets.
As for Senga, he had some problems early in the year, including first-inning issues, but he’s come on strong lately. Like Gray, he was an all-star this season and is rocking a 3.27 ERA. Despite giving up a first-inning run in his last start, Senga has a 2.08 ERA over his three starts in July, allowing just four earned runs over 17.1 innings. In his two previous July starts Senga threw a scoreless first inning. His first-inning ERA is now down to 3.50, so he should be able to avoid trouble against the Nats on Thursday.
There could be some first-inning runs in Thursday’s game between the Cubs and the Cardinals. The Cards have the 10th-most first-inning runs in baseball this year despite a subpar season. But they have the fourth-most first-inning runs when playing at home. With Miles Mikolas having an awful track record in the first inning this season, St. Louis has an excellent chance to either score or concede a first-inning run against the Cubs.
It’s almost puzzling how bad Mikolas has been in the first inning this year because he was excellent early in games last year. Alas, he owns a 7.36 ERA in the first inning across his 22 starts in 2023. He also allowed five runs on 11 hits over five innings in his last start, which also came against the Cubs, who appear to have his number. While the Chicago lineup didn’t score any first-inning runs in that game, seeing Mikolas for the second time in less than a week could help the Cubs jump on him early in Thursday’s game.
To be fair, Justin Steele will start for the Cubs on Thursday in the midst of a fantastic season. The lefty is 10-3 with a 2.95 ERA, providing a bright spot for Chicago. Like Mikolas, he’ll be facing the same team twice in less than a week, which could favor the hitters. Even though he owns a 2.50 ERA in the first inning of games, the Cardinals are always a threat to score early. It’s worth noting that Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado are a combined 9 for 30 (.300) in their careers against Steele, so navigating the first inning won’t be easy for him.
The Guardians and White Sox could be in line to play a pitcher’s duel on Thursday. Tanner Bibee and Dylan Cease are scheduled to take the mound. If both are on their game, it could be a few innings until runs are scored. Keep in mind that the White Sox are tied with the Cubs for the second-fewest first-inning runs in baseball this year while the Guards aren’t much better, so this matchup points strongly to NRFI.
The 24-year-old Bibee is 6-2 with a 3.04 ERA, and he’s only gotten better as the season has gone along. Across his four starts in July, the young righty owns a 1.14 ERA, including seven scoreless innings against the Phillies in his last start. Rather inconveniently, opposing teams have pushed a run across in the first inning against Bibee in two of his last three starts. But his 4.20 ERA in the first inning of games is still respectable. Against a team like the White Sox that has trouble scoring early in games, Bibee has an excellent chance of getting out of the first inning unscathed.
On the other side, Cease has been one of the best pitchers in the first inning of games this season. In 21 starts in 2023, he has a 1.71 ERA and a 0.95 WHIP. Over his last two starts, Cease has pitched 11 innings, allowing just two runs on six hits, and neither run came in the first inning. He’s now kept the opposing team scoreless in the first inning in 12 of his last 13 starts, including two starts against the Guardians. That trend is likely to continue on Thursday, which is why there is value in this NRFI bet.
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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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