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The Phillies used a pair of first-inning home runs to strike early in Game 1 of the NLCS, although that doesn’t necessarily point to early scoring in Game 2. That was just the second time the Phillies scored a run in the first inning in their seven playoff games. Likewise, Arizona has scored in the first inning just twice in six playoff games. While first-inning home runs are on the table once again, it’d be more than a little surprising to see that happen two games in a row.
With Merrill Kelly and Aaron Nola on the mound, the most likely scenario is a scoreless first inning in Game 2 of the NLCS.
Kelly has had an excellent season in 2023 and has been particularly good early in games. Over his 30 starts during the regular season, he posted a 3.30 ERA. He’s also fresh off 6.1 scoreless innings against the Dodgers. In fact, Kelly has now limited five of his last seven opponents to one run or less, so he’s not giving up many runs regardless of the inning. In those seven starts, Kelly has only allowed a first-inning run once. The biggest concern for him in the first inning might be Trea Turner, who is 9 for 21 with three doubles in his career against Kelly. But Turner alone won’t score a run in the first inning against Kelly and the Diamondbacks.
While Kyle Schwarber and Bryce Harper both homered in the first inning on Monday, the two are a combined 2 for 12 in their careers against Kelly, who should be able to keep the Phillies quiet in the first inning of Game 2.
On the other side, Nola is just as reliable in the Kelly in the first inning of games. In his 32 starts, he posted a 3.66 ERA in the first inning of games. Similar to Kelly, Nola has conceded just two earned runs or less in five straight starts, so most teams are lucky to get anything off him, much less score runs in the first inning. Going back even further, Nola has pitched a scoreless first inning in seven consecutive starts. Even in his subpar performances, he’s kept teams scoreless in the first inning.
The kicker is that Arizona’s first three batters - Corbin Carroll, Ketel Marte, and Tommy Pham - are a combined 3 for 21 in their careers against Nola. That’s a strong indicator that the Diamondbacks will be held scoreless in the first inning of Game 2. With Kelly likely to do the same to the Phillies, a scoreless first inning is the best bet in Game 2.
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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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