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).