With August officially a thing of the past, we’ve reached September, where the rubber meets the road for MLB playoff hopefuls. The first weekend of the month is absolutely loaded with playoff previews and teams scrapping for positioning, as all 30 MLB squads are in action. Let’s go find some value in No Run First Inning (NRFI) and Yes Run First Inning (YRFI) props in the games on 9/2/2023 and make some predictions.
Chicago Cubs vs. Cincinnati Reds NRFI (+100)
Starting Pitchers: RHP Javier Assad (3-2, 2.96 ERA) vs. LHP Andrew Abbott (8-4, 3.35 ERA)
Let’s start with some awesome even-money value in a game with two solid arms, and offenses that cannot possibly be described as hot. The Chicago Cubs have been winning games, but they haven’t exactly been racking up runs- for instance, their series win against the Milwaukee Brewers included outputs of 2, 1, and 3 runs in the three games. They’ll be facing rookie arm Andrew Abbott who has struggled a bit in the first inning, but he’s been solid overall and as a lefty, matches up well with the top of Chicago’s lineup.
The Cubs are also tossing a rookie arm, Javier Assad, who has broken into the big leagues in impressive fashion as well. He’s gotten in most of his work as a reliever, and has only thrown six first innings, but he’s only given up one run across those frames. He should be fine to get the first three outs against a Cincy first-inning offense that has really dropped off lately, as they find themselves below league-average, a spot below Chicago.
Baltimore Orioles vs. Arizona Diamondbacks NRFI (-105)
Starting Pitchers: RHP Kyle Bradish (9-6, 3.03 ERA) vs. RHP Slade Cecconi (0-0, 2.57 ERA)
Once again, we’re given the chance to invest in some good arms at essentially even money. Baltimore’s Kyle Bradish is one of the most underrated arms in the entire sport, and has been particularly exceptional in the first inning; across 24 outings, he has earned a 1.12 ERA in the opening frame.
Arizona’s Slade Cecconi doesn’t have much of a track record- just three starts- but he’s been solid across those appearances, allowing just one run. He’s also done a pretty good job neutralizing the earlier spots in the batting orders. These are two solid first-inning offenses, but Baltimore really struggles starting strong on the road, while Arizona doesn’t experience any sort of home bump.
Toronto Blue Jays vs. Colorado Rockies NRFI (+120)
Starting Pitchers: LHP Yusei Kikuchi (9-4, 3.63 ERA) vs. LHP Ty Blach (1-1, 3.94 ERA)
You’d think that betting on a NRFI for a game played up at Coors Field would be a disaster waiting to happen, but the Rockies have scored exactly the same average of opening frame runs at home and on the road, which places them at 19th on the MLB list. Toronto’s first inning offense has been extremely disappointing, ranking 28th in the majors, and is particularly useless on the road.
Colorado’s Ty Blach has only started 7 games this season, but has done really well with those opportunities, only allowing one run across those opening frames for a 1.29 ERA. Toronto’s Yusei Kikuchi has been very good but not quite as lights-out in first innings with a 3.12 ERA, albeit over a much larger sample size. With competent arms and brutal offenses, it’s hard to understand how this line ended up where it is.
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
Los Angeles Angels vs. Oakland Athletics NRFI (-145)
After some awesome value lines in the main portion of the article, here’s a big minus-odds pick that you can slot into your Saturday parlay. Yes, it’s sort of a hard sell to bet on the A’s in any capacity, especially when part of the proposition is to shut down Shohei Ohtani, even for just one at-bat. But Oakland ace Paul Blackburn has been outstanding in first innings, allowing just three runs over 15 outings. Oakland’s first inning offense ranks 21st in the majors, so even with his bumpy track record, Griffin Canning should be fine to get those first three outs.
Minnesota Twins vs. Texas Rangers NRFI (+100)
Dallas Kuechel is just three starts into his season, but in those outings, he has been pretty sharp overall and has yet to allow a first inning run. He’s going up against a Texas lineup that has really fallen off of late and has slipped to 19th on the first inning offense list, and as a lefty, matches up relatively well with superstar Corey Seager. Texas trade acquisition Jordan Montgomery’s ERA in opening frames is a very solid 3.12, and has tossed very well since coming over to Texas.
Philadelphia Phillies vs. Milwaukee Brewers YRFI (-125)
Finally, we’ve come to the obligatory YRFI for today’s slate. Milwaukee has the league’s eighth best first-inning offense, while Philly sits in 12th on the same list but is definitively trending upwards as a lineup. Colin Rea has been brutal this season, to the tune of a 5.11 ERA, and he’s hardly been better in the first inning, not what you want to see when part of your job is facing a scalding-hot Bryce Harper. Philly’s Aaron Nola is also in the midst of a massive down year, with an ERA in the mid-4’s both overall, and in opening frames.