When you sign-up through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more >
Both of these teams have had a run scored in the first inning of their games more times than not this season. In fact, only four teams have hit YRFI more frequently than Arizona. But for a day game with Merrill Kelly and Josiah Gray on the mound, both lineups could struggle early, leading to a scoreless first inning.
In Kelly’s case, he’s been good all season, pitching to a 2.80 ERA while going 7-3. If it matters, the D’Backs have been good about giving him run support early in games, which is why Arizona has won his last four starts. But he’s also pitched a scoreless first inning in five straight starts. Ironically, the Nationals were the last team to score against him in the first inning. Nevertheless, Kelly’s 2.25 ERA in the first inning is impressive.
Meanwhile, Gray has quietly put together a strong season for the lowly Nats. Despite being 4-5, he owns a 3.09 ERA. Also, Washington has won four of his last five starts. Oddly enough, Gray struggled in the first inning of his season debut. But he’s only allowed one run in the first inning of his last 11 starts, including a game against the Diamondbacks. Gray has actually been one of the best pitchers in baseball in the first inning this year, almost making this a slam-dunk for a scoreless first inning with Kelly also likely to hold up his end of the bargain.
The Astros and Blue Jays rank second and third, respectively, in NRFI this year. The Marlins are by far the best but Houston and Toronto are a combined 68-55 NRFI. That’s a strong indication that Thursday’s game will feature a scoreless first inning, especially with Framber Valdez and Jose Berrios on the mound, as both are among the hottest pitchers in baseball at the moment.
Valdez hasn’t allowed that many runs in any inning this year, posting a 2.16 ERA. Over his last three starts, he’s allowed just one total run in 22 innings of work, although two of those starts were against Oakland. In any event, he’s only allowed two runs on six hits in the first inning of games. He typically makes quick work of opposing hitters in the first inning, enabling him to pitch deep in games.
While Berrios hasn’t been quite as impressive this year, he’s been almost as good, especially lately. The righty had a 3.19 ERA in May and allowed one run over six innings on just four hits in his first start of June. To be fair, the first inning hasn’t been his best, so the Houston lineup could prove troublesome for him. But Berrios has also allowed just one total run over his last 18.2 innings across three starts. Opposing teams have only scored against Berrios in the first inning once in his last six starts. If he’s able to stay hot, the Blue Jays and Astros are likely to play a scoreless first inning on Thursday.
Despite scoring a first-inning run on Wednesday, the Mets still rank last in the majors in first-inning runs. While the Braves are near the top of the league in that category, both Atlanta and New York are hitting NRFI 52% of the time this season. With two aces like Justin Verlander and Spencer Strider starting Thursday’s series finale, both teams are likely to have trouble pushing a run across in the first inning.
Traditionally, Verlander is a master in the first inning. He posted a 1.61 ERA in the first inning during his Cy Young season in 2022. It hasn’t been quite as easy for him this year, but when he’s on top of his game, opposing teams are helpless. Surprisingly, Verlander has allowed a first-inning run in four of his six starts in 2023. But given his track record, it’s still hard to bet against him, especially since many of the Braves at the top of the order don’t have much experience against him. That could help Verlander turn on the tide on his recent history and get back to dominating early in games.
As for Strider, he’s allowed four runs on just seven hits in the first inning of his 12 starts this year. He’s had a couple of early hiccups in games but is typically reliable. To be fair, the Mets pushed a run across the plate the last time they saw Strider in early May. But since that game, Strider has allowed a first-inning run just once in his last six starts. The Mets have also endured a team-wide slump over the past week, which should help Strider to keep them quiet in the first inning on Thursday.
Take a look at our favorite MLB sportsbooks before placing your bets!
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
© Rebel Penguin ApS 2023 (a subsidiary of Gaming Innovation Group Inc.)
We support responsible gambling. 21+ Only. Gambling problem? Call 1-800-Gambler.
WSN.com is run by iGaming Cloud Inc (a Gaming Innovation Group Subsidiary) and is registered with the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) under affiliate vendor ID 89744, with the Indiana Gaming Commission (IGC) under certificate of registration number SWR-000148, approved by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board as a gaming service provider, under certificate registration number 117656-1, possesses a Vendor Minor sports betting license from the Colorado Limited Gaming Control Commission (account number 94414163), granted a vendor registration number VR007603-20-001 by the Michigan Gaming Control Board, an interim Sports Wagering Supplier license, under license number SWS 066, issued by the West Virginia Lottery Commission, a sports betting vendor registration, under registration number #100400, issued by the Director of Gaming Licensing and Investigations of the Virginia Lottery to operate in the State of Virginia, and a Vendor Registration issued by the Sports Wagering Committee of the Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation.
Advertising disclosure: WSN contains links to online retailers on its website. When people click on our affiliate links and make purchases, WSN earns a commission from our partners, including ESPN and various sportsbooks.