First-inning success fueling Yankees start, while failures bury Indians

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In theory, anyway, every manager in baseball designs his lineup to give his team the best chance of scoring in the first inning of the game. And it generally works: there have been 509 runs scored in the first innings of games this year, 23 more than the next highest-scoring inning.

One team’s pitching staff hasn’t been contributing to that total, though. The Pittsburgh Pirates have allowed just three first-inning runs in 31 games. It’s not simply the best mark in baseball, but it blows everyone else out of the water. No other team has allowed fewer than 10 first-inning runs.

First-inning runs allowed
1. Pirates – 3
2. Nationals – 10
2. Royals – 10
4. Giants – 12
4. Marlins – 12
4. Rays – 12

27. Blue Jays – 24
27. Dodgers – 24
27. Red Sox – 24
30. Indians – 27

On the flip side, the Pirates have been a middling offensive team in the first, totaling 14 runs. The Yankees lead the way there.

First-inning runs scored
1. Yankees – 31
2. Braves – 28
2. Tigers – 28
4. Padres – 27

26. Marlins – 11
26. Mets – 11
28. Indians – 10
29. Phillies – 9
30. White Sox – 7

The Yankees have the game’s best run-differential in the first inning this year, which plays a big role in their 20-12 record. They’ve outscored the opposition by 17 runs in the first and just 13 over the remainder of the game.

First-inning run differential
1. Yankees +17
2. Pirates +11
2. Royals +11
4. Tigers +10
5. Padres +9

27. Phillies -11
27. Red Sox -11
29. White Sox -13
30. Indians -17

We can also see just how difficult it is to consistently dig out of an early hole. The Red Sox and Indians were both expected by most to be contenders this year, and the White Sox had their share of backers, as well. All are struggling. The Indians, with the AL’s worst record at 11-19, have a -17 run differential in the first, though they’re practically matching the competition the rest of the way (-2 from the second inning on).

Clayton Kershaw returning to Dodgers on 1-year, $20M deal

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports
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LOS ANGELES — Clayton Kershaw will pitch for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2023 after signing a one-year, $20 million deal.

For the second straight year, the Dodgers didn’t extend a qualifying offer to the three-time Cy Young Award winner. Instead, they gave him additional time to mull his future, and he once again decided to stay with the only franchise he’s ever played for during his 15-year major league career.

The 34-year-old left-hander was 12-3 with 2.28 ERA in 22 starts last season. He struck out 137 and walked 23. Kershaw made his ninth All-Star team and started the Midsummer Classic for the first time in his career at Dodger Stadium.

Last April, he became the franchise’s all-time strikeout leader with 2,697. He reached 2,800 strikeouts in his last start of the regular season on Oct. 5 against Colorado. Kershaw ranks 24th all-time with 2,807.

Kershaw has a career record of 197-87 with a 2.48 ERA. He won his only World Series title in 2020, when the Dodgers beat Tampa Bay during the pandemic-shortened season.