As we get into late August, the end of the regular season is sneaking up on us, and when that time comes, there will be no more 15-game slates like the one we have this Saturday, so buckle up and really enjoy the ride. With a big gameday on tap, let’s go find some value in No Run First Inning (NRFI) and Yes Run First Inning (YRFI) props in the games on 8/26/2023 and make some predictions.
Cleveland Guardians vs. Toronto Blue Jays NRFI (+105)
Starting Pitchers: LHP Logan Allen (6-6, 3.31 ERA) vs. LHP Hyun-jin Ryu (2-1, 1.89 ERA)
Let’s get things started with an awesome plus-money bet. For game two of this weekend series up in Toronto, both sides are throwing a pretty solid starting pitcher. The Guardians are trotting out rookie lefty Logan Allen, who has had a very solid first campaign in the big leagues. He’s had some rough patches, as any rookie would, but has overall been strong. One of the achilles heels in his stat line has been some trouble in the first inning, but against Toronto’s 29th-ranked first frame offense, he should be able to get the first three outs with no problem.
He’ll be going up against a much more veteran arm, Hyun-jin Ryu, who is now in his age-36 season. Ryu hasn’t thrown a ton of innings yet, as he’s coming back from injury, but he’s been sharp through his first four appearances of the year with an excellent ERA thus far. Like Allen, he’s had some first-inning woes, but the sample size isn’t big enough to be material. Furthermore, like the Jays, the Guardians’ first inning output is pretty mediocre, 24th best in the league, to be exact. With two lethargic lineups heading into this one, and good arms on both sides, it’s a mystery to me how this NRFI is in plus-money; grab those odds before it’s too late.
Kansas City Royals vs. Seattle Mariners YRFI (-130)
Starting Pitchers: RHP Jordan Lyles (3-14, 6.20 ERA) vs. RHP Logan Gilbert (11-5, 3.77 ERA)
This one doesn’t offer the same payout as the last wager we discussed, but is nonetheless a good bet considering how likely it is to hit. It’s essentially the opposite of the first one, two pitchers who get absolutely slammed in the first inning, one outstanding offense, and one surprisingly competent one. Jordan Lyles has had a tough year overall for the Royals, and the first inning has been especially challenging for him, as he has racked up an 8.25 ERA in the frame.
Logan Gilbert has had a pretty good year overall for the Mariners, with a career-best WHIP of 1.074, but he’s also struggled early in games. His first inning ERA, almost twice his overall figure. He’ll be facing a Royals offense that has included some hot bats of late, and ranks a decent 22nd in the league in first-inning scoring. Lyles will have a tougher task; the Seattle offense has been trending upwards of late as the team has erased a 10-game deficit in the AL West. On the season, they’re seventh in the league with 0.57 runs scored per first inning, and have a great chance to put some early runs on the board against an embattled starter.
New York Yankees vs. Tampa Bay Rays NRFI (-105)
Starting Pitchers: RHP Clarke Schmidt (8-7, 4.68 ERA) vs. RHP Tyler Glasnow (6-4, 3.35 ERA)
Suffice it to say that the Yankees offense has not been what it was expected to be this year. After coming into the season with high expectations following another ALCS defeat to the Astros, the team has floundered in almost every way imaginable. That being said, they just took the first game of a weekend set with the division rival Tampa Bay Rays, who are definitely trending in the wrong direction as we get closer to the postseason. The Yankees offense ranks 21st in first inning scoring, and while Tampa sits in fifth in that metric, things have been less rosy of late
The Yankees starter will be Clarke Schmidt, who doesn’t have a pretty stat line, but has struggled mostly getting deep into his outings rather than giving up runs at the beginning, and has a very respectable first inning ERA of 3.24. He’ll be going up against Tyler Glasnow, who has been very sharp overall, including an excellent 2.57 ERA in the first inning across 14 starts. With two guys who generally start strong, and offenses that nobody wants to bet on right now, this is a great spot to bet the NRFI at essentially even money.
Honorable Mention NRFI Best Bets
Now that we’ve taken a good look at my favorite picks, let’s highlight a few honorable mentions that could provide you with some good value
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Boston Red Sox YRFI (-130)
In this matchup, you’re absolutely getting two teams who can hit, and in the case of LA, do so especially well in the first inning. Their average of 0.76 runs in each opening frame is second to only the Braves’ ridiculous average, and the Red Sox are dead average in the same metric. As far as the pitching matchup goes, Julio Urías has been uncharacteristically awful in the first inning with a 9.47 ERA over 19 starts. Boston’s James Paxton has been more effective, but nobody’s immune to the Dodgers offense.
Houston Astros vs. Detroit Tigers YRFI (-120)
The Astros are right behind the Dodgers in the first inning offense rankings, and are just generally getting hot at the right time, a very familiar sight for all of their AL foes. They’ll be facing Eduardo Rodríguez, who has had a nice year but is slumping a bit of late, and often against lesser opponents as compared to Houston. As for the Tigers offense, they’re not as productive of a unit but have the privilege of facing Hunter Brown, who is allowing a disappointing 5.09 ERA in the first inning.