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An afternoon game with two good pitchers is usually a recipe for a scoreless first inning. Even if Freddy Peralta and Kevin Gausman haven’t been dominant this season, both have good stuff and should take advantage of sleepy hitters in an early start time. Plus, the Blue Jays are the third-best team in baseball at playing a scoreless first inning, so there is good value in betting on NRFI.
As mentioned, Peralta hasn't been great this season. He owns a 4.64 ERA and got knocked around in his last start, lasting just 2.1 innings. But even after a problematic month of May, Peralta has only allowed first-inning runs in one of his last seven starts. With most of Toronto’s hitters not facing Peralta previously, he should be able to get off to a promising start and escape any trouble in the first inning.
Meanwhile, Gausman has been a little more reliable in 2023, posting a 3.03 ERA over his first 11 starts. Despite Toronto going 1-4 in his starts in May, Gausman pitched well. More importantly, he hasn’t allowed a first-inning run in four consecutive starts. While he had a couple of rough first innings in April, Gausman appears to have settled down and is pitching more like the person who had a 2.90 ERA in the first inning of his 31 starts in 2022. Plus, the Brewers have scored two runs or less in four of their last six games, so they aren’t scoring a lot in any inning, making it less likely that they’ll strike in the first inning on Thursday.
Miami has been the best team in baseball at playing a scoreless first inning, and it’s not even close. The Marlins have had a first-inning run scored in just 19 of their 56 games, so they play a scoreless first inning 66% of the time. The Padres sit at 51% with regard to NRFI, which is above the league average. With Joe Musgrove and Jesus Luzardo on the mound, Miami’s run of scoreless first innings should continue.
To be fair, Musgrove has been wildly inconsistent this year, pitching to a 5.64 ERA. However, he’s still settling in, making just six starts. He also has a track record of dominating in the first inning, posting a 1.50 ERA in the first inning last season. Musgrove is also coming off his best start of the season, allowing just one run over 6.1 innings against the Yankees. He’s also pitching a scoreless first inning in four of his last five starts, which means he’s trending in the right direction, especially early in games.
On the other side, Luzardo has been nothing short of dominant in the first inning this year. He’s helped to lead Miami’s charge as it relates to NRFI. The only first-inning run he’s allowed this year was unearned. In his 11 starts, the southpaw has conceded just three hits and one walk in the first inning while striking out 15. Regardless of the opponent, Luzardo gets the job done in the first inning, and with Musgrove coming along in that area as well, there is every reason to think the Marlins and Padres will play a scoreless first inning on Thursday.
We’re going against the grain by thinking the Reds and Red Sox will play a scoreless inning on Thursday. The Reds have seen first-inning runs scored in 34 of their 55 games, hitting YRFI 62% of the time. The Red Sox aren’t far behind at 58%, making both teams among the five best in baseball at YRFI. But with Hunter Greene and Chris Sale pitching, those trends may not hold up, which is why this bet has good value.
In Sale’s case, he’s come on strong lately, pitching to a 2.42 ERA in May. In his four starts last month, he never gave up a run in the first inning. In fact, opponents have failed to score against Sale in the first inning in seven straight games. The Reds aren't exactly a good bet to snap that streak. Cincinnati’s lineup isn’t particularly potent and has virtually no experience facing Sale, which should help the lefty to continue his first-inning dominance.
Meanwhile, Greene has been one of the best first-inning pitchers in baseball this season. His fastball is usually good enough the first time through a lineup, which is why he has a 1.96 ERA against the first nine batters of the game. More importantly, Greene has allowed just one run on four hits in the first inning of his 11 starts this year, striking out 18. Even if things fall apart after that, Greene is excellent early in games, which is why the Reds and Red Sox are poised for a scoreless inning on Thursday.
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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