With a baseball-filled Monday in the books, Tuesday brings us even more action with all 30 teams playing in a 15-game slate. With so much at stake this time of year, there’s also a chance to make a bunch of money, so let’s go find some value in No Run First Inning (NRFI) and Yes Run First Inning (YRFI) props in the games on 8/29/2023 and make some predictions.
New York Yankees vs. Detroit Tigers NRFI (-125)
Starting Pitchers: RHP Michael King (3-5, 3.13 ERA) vs. LHP Tarik Skubal (3-2, 4.06 ERA)
Let’s kick off this late slate with a game between two teams who fought to a relative pitchers duel on Monday, with the first run of the game coming in the fifth inning. That was despite a rough starting pitching matchup, which just tells you that these offenses are not in the best shape right now. New York and Detroit rank 21st and 25th respectively in first inning scoring, giving us a great opportunity to bet a NRFI here.
Michael King will be serving as an opener for the Bronx Bombers on Tuesday, as they will turn to the bullpen for much of the evening. He doesn’t have much of a track record starting off games, but he’s been one of the sharper arms for the Yanks this season. He’ll be going up against the young Tarik Skubal, who hasn’t had a great year overall, but has absolutely dominated in the first inning with an ERA of 1.00 across 9 starts. The matchup between the lefty Skubal and a very right-handed Yankees lineup gives me a bit of pause, but these guys have not been fast starters, and he should be fine to get those first three outs.
Los Angeles Angels vs Philadelphia Phillies YRFI (-145)
Starting Pitchers: LHP Tyler Anderson (5-5, 5.35 ERA) vs. RHP Michael Lorenzen (7-8, 3.69)
Vegas has this one in some serious minus-odds, and for good reason; this should be a fun ballgame with scoring early and often. Southpaw Tyler Anderson is having a very poor season for the Angels, you can see the ERA above and it doesn’t get much prettier if you dig into the advanced analytics. Michael Lorenzen hasn’t been as bad overall, but is coming off of a pair of bad starts against the Nationals and Giants, and has allowed an ERA of nearly 5.00 in the first inning, so he’s not exactly set for a hot start.
These two lineups also have some serious star power at the top, with MVPs and World Champions all over the place. Of course there’s Shohei Ohtani for the Angels, who isn’t going to pitch for quite some time but is still crushing the ball at the plate. The Phillies have Bryce Harper, who has finally regained his power stroke and has absolutely torched the ball over the past few weeks, and even Trea Turner is back at the top of the lineup as he has begun to turn a corner. The Phillies are the 11th-best first inning offense while the Angels are tied for 12th, so against some questionable arms, these teams definitely have the chance to rack up a bunch of runs.
Tampa Bay Rays vs. Miami Marlins NRFI (-130)
Starting Pitchers: RHP Aaron Civale (6-3, 2.59 ERA) vs. RHP Sandy Alcántara (6-11, 4.16 ERA)
This matchup is an interesting one as it features the #4 and #29 first inning offenses in the majors, but I’m taking the NRFI as both sides will have a tough task against the opposing starting pitcher. Sandy Alcántara hasn’t quite lived up to the billing after an incredible Cy Young winning campaign last year, but he’s still been good across the first couple of innings. Perhaps there’s some measure of residual fatigue from last year, when he threw the most innings in the majors and worked six complete games, or maybe from this season itself, as he once again has gone the distance three times, and leads the bigs in batters faced, but he runs into most of his trouble later in the game.
He’s facing Aaron Civale, whose 0.53 first inning ERA is almost too good to believe. Amazingly enough, he has the exact same figure in the second inning, so it’s nearly unheard of for an offense to come out and get off to a strong start against Civale. I believe in both of these guys to get through the first inning before the runs start flowing, and this cross-Florida matchup is one of the most interesting on Monday’s slate; definitely tune in if you can.
NRFI Best Bet Honorable Mentions
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
Chicago Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers NRFI (-130)
Yes, Milwaukee has a top 10 first inning offense, but the Cubs are actually below average, as their suddenly-potent offense does most of its damage deeper into the ballgame. Either way, Tuesday’s pitching matchup makes this worth the NRFI, as Justin Steele takes on Corbin Burnes. Both of these guys are having great seasons and residing on the outskirts of the Cy Young race, with Steele only behind Blake Snell on the MLB ERA list. One key feature of Steele’s breakout season is that he has been incredibly sharp in the first, giving us a great opportunity to back him in a huge game for the Northsiders.
Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Los Angeles Dodgers NRFI (-125)
Betting against the Dodgers offense is a tough sell, but when you have a pitching matchup of this caliber, you have to put your trust in the arms. Merrill Kelly is having an absolutely fantastic season as he continues to improve year over year, and has been absolutely lights-out over the first five innings; essentially all damage done against him happens late. Then of course there’s Clayton Kershaw, one of the all-time greats, who like Kelly has been great overall, but especially early in games. These are some solid lineups, but with a true battle of aces on tap, I’m betting against any early scoring.