With every team in action and a doubleheader on tap, Tuesday’s packed 16-game slate gives us lots of opportunities to find some value as teams on the margins of the playoff field try to find a spot in the postseason. Let’s go find some value in No Run First Inning (NRFI) and Yes Run First Inning (YRFI) props in the games on 8/8/2023 and make some predictions.
Chicago Cubs vs. New York Mets YRFI (-125)
Starting Pitchers: RHP Jameson Taillon (6-6, 5.36 ERA) vs. RHP Carlos Carrasco (3-6, 6.60 ERA)
Let’s get things started with a YRFI bet in a game where there should definitely be some offense. The Cubs lineup has been one of the hottest in the league over the past month or so, with a team OPS of nearly .900 over that span. For context, the Braves and Rangers are the only squads with a team total over .800 for the full season, so the Cubs are crushing it, and have risen to 5th in the league in per-game scoring.
They will be going up against Carlos Carrasco, who has had a very tough campaign with his ERA well beyond the 6.00 mark. The first inning has been even worse to him, as he has a disastrous mark of 7.88 in opening frames. Jameson Taillon, pitching for the Cubs against a Mets offense that got hot in a big way in game 1 of this set, has been marginally better than Carrasco, but by no means good. He too struggles in the first inning, with an ERA over a run worse than his overall number. Neither team has been particularly elite in the first inning, but with very shaky pitching on both sides, either or both lineups could get off to a fast start
Minnesota Twins vs. Detroit Tigers NRFI (-130)
Starting Pitchers: RHP Sonny Gray (5-4, 3.18 ERA) vs. LHP Eduardo Rodríguez (7-5, 2.96 ERA)
One of the most memorable moments of this year’s trade deadline was actually a non-move, when Detroit’s starter for Tuesday, Eduardo Rodríguez, invoked his no-trade clause to block a move to the Los Angeles Dodgers, a major NL contender. While the move puzzled some, Rodríguez said that staying in Detroit was right for him and his family, and now he will have the chance to show how much it means to him to be on this team. He’s had a great year so far, and will look to keep it up against the division-rival Twins, who have just about a league-average first inning offense.
He’s going up against Sonny Gray, who will have the pleasure of facing the Tigers’ bottom-5 first inning offense as his Twins make their final playoff push. Like Rodríguez, Gray has been fantastic this year and is one of the premier arms in the AL at this time. He’s been even more special in the first inning, where he has garnered an outrageous ERA of 0.82 Across 22 outings. With two great starters set to throw and no special offense on either side, I love this game to stay scoreless through the first six outs.
Atlanta Braves vs. Pittsburgh Pirates NRFI (+100)
Starting Pitchers: RHP Yonny Chirinos (5-4, 4.42 ERA) vs. RHP Mitch Keller (9-8, 4.35 ERA)
Without a truly elite arm on either side, this bet is a bit of a risk, but a great chance to get involved at even money rather than minus-odds. Atlanta’s Chirinos, recently claimed off waivers from Tampa Bay, has only thrown six first innings this year as he has been used as a reliever in 11 of his 17 appearances, but has not allowed a run in any of those six opening frames thus far. He also gets to face a Pirates offense that is bottom-3 when it comes to first inning scoring, and 24th in runs per game, so even if he doesn’t necessarily have the best stuff in the majors, he definitely has a good chance of getting the first three outs without surrendering a run.
After a great start to the year, which saw him earn his first All Star selection, Keller has been pretty shaky through 6 starts in May and August. The good news is that aside from two absolute clunkers in which he allowed 7 first-inning runs, he has been very sharp across his other 21 first frames. Atlanta’s first inning offense is the league’s best by a decent margin, but there’s an enormous drop-off when they have to go on the road; they put up 1.37 first inning runs per game in Atlanta, but just .62 everywhere else, as they score in just about half of their road first innings. At even money, and with Keller still throwing well and due for positive regression, I like those odds.
Toronto Blue Jays vs. Cleveland Guardians NRFI (-135)
Starting Pitchers: XHP First Last (W-L, X.XX ERA) vs. XHP First Last (W-L, X.XX ERA)
What goes together better than Cleveland and unders? This team has consistently built an identity around pitching, and this year is no exception; they’re tied for fifth in team ERA, but bottom-5 in run scoring per game. Tuesday should be no exception, as 24 year old rookie Tanner Bibee is slated to start, and has been great thus far. His season ERA is down in the low 3’s after spiking a bit, as he’s tossed 8 consecutive starts of 3 or less earned runs, and his first-inning numbers are pretty much in line with his season totals.
Toronto’s starter Yusei Kikuchi has been strong overall as well, and even a bit better in the first inning with an ERA of 3.27 in opening frames. Kikuchi has also thrown very well lately, as he has allowed just 3 earned runs across his past four starts, with each of those runs occurring in separate outings.
MLB NRFI/YRFI Best Bets Today: Expert Picks & Predictions for Tuesday’s Slate (8/8/23)
Helping the case for no early scoring is that neither team has a highly-ranked first inning offense; Cleveland’s is 20th in the league, while Toronto’s is even worse at 25th. The Jays, unsurprisingly, have better first innings at home, but the Guardians are actually a tad better on the road, so this is the right setting for a scoreless first between two floundering offenses.