There are 15 games on the MLB slate on Wednesday (9/20/23) offering plenty of opportunities to bet on a No Run First Inning (NRFI) and Yes Run First Inning (YRFI). This article analyzes today’s NRFI and YRFI betting odds and recommends the best NRFI and the best YRFI bets to make on MLB games today.
9/20 NRFI/YRFI Best Bets
Here are the best NRFI and YRFI bets to place on Wednesday, September 20, 2023.
Mets at Marlins YRFI (+110 at BetMGM)
Starting pitchers: RHP Kodai Senga (11-7, 2.95 ERA) vs. RHP Eury Pérez (5-5, 3.06 ERA)
There is a lot of value on a YRFI bet at +110 odds in this NL East matchup. The odds are what they are in part because the Marlins have hit the NRFI more than any other team in the league this season (94-58, 61.8%), while the Mets are the worst first-inning offense in the league. The Mets’ 52 runs scored in the first inning this season is 12 fewer runs than the next lowest team (Toronto), while Miami is not much better at 27th in the league with 67 runs.
Another reason the NRFI is such a big favorite in this game (-140 odds at BetMGM) is the pitching matchup. Kodai Senga and Eury Pérez have been two of the best pitchers in the league this season, and Pérez has been one of the best in the first inning.
Both Senga and Pérez are top 10 in the league in ERA (minimum 80 innings). Pérez has pitched a scoreless first inning in 15 of his 18 starts this season, although he allowed a run in the opening frame in 2 of his last 3 starts. Senga has kept opponents off the board in 19 of his 27 starts, but just 4 of his last 7.
Those recent numbers in the first inning are part of the reason we like the chances for one of these pitchers to allow a baserunner to cross the plate in the first inning tonight. The other reason is that despite their poor season-long numbers in the first inning, both of these lineups have been more dangerous in the opening frame recently, especially Miami.
Miami is still just 21st in first-inning offense since the All-Star break. While that is an improvement over their season-long numbers, it’s still not the most inspiring performance. However, their advanced metrics like wOBA and wRC+ in the first inning are both top 8 over the same timeframe, which shows that they are threatening to score a lot more often in the second half, but just have not converted those opportunities into runs as often as expected.
Over the last month those numbers are even better, as they are top 4 in both wOBA and wRC+ and they have converted that into the 12th most runs. Their trade deadline acquisitions of Jake Burger and Josh Bell have something to do with that, which is another reason to trust their recent performance over their poor season-long numbers.
We like the chances for the Marlins to score a run off Senga in this first inning today, and while this pick is admittedly a slight risk given the strong pitching matchup, the better value is on the YRFI.
Pirates at Cubs YRFI (+105 at BetMGM)
Starting pitchers: RHP Mitch Keller (12-9, 4.04 ERA) vs. LHP Justin Steele (16-4, 2.73 ERA)
We have another excellent pitching matchup in this game, and we’re going to use some similar logic as our last pick to take the plus odds on a YRFI. The key matchup for this YRFI bet is Pirates starter Mitch Keller against the Cubs’ lineup.
Keller has had a solid season and has been excellent lately, with a 2.77 ERA and 1.13 WHIP over his last 6 starts (39 innings). Those numbers would look completely dominant without the 12-hit, 8-run outing he suffered against Atlanta two starts ago, and any bad outing against the Braves this season is excusable considering their record-breaking season.
That recent stretch included an 8-inning scoreless outing against this same Cubs team on August 25. The big difference between that game and this one is the location, as that game was in Pittsburgh and this one is in Chicago’s Wrigley Field. Keller has dramatic home/road splits this season, with a 2.90 ERA and 1.06 WHIP at home compared to a 5.15 ERA and 1.43 WHIP on the road. He has allowed a run in the first inning in 4 of his last 5 starts on the road, and Wrigley is one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks in the league.
Those trends point to value on a YRFI, especially considering how dominant the Cubs’ lineup has been lately. Since the All-Star break, the Cubs are the 4th-best offense in the league and the 4th-best offense in the first inning. Since August 1 they lead the league in runs scored in the first inning and have even out-scored those record-setting Braves. With that recent performance and Keller’s struggles on the road, there is a very good chance that the Cubs will get a run across the plate in the opening frame tonight.
The YRFI is likely to come down to the Cubs’ offense in the bottom of the inning, since the chances of the Pirates scoring an early run on Justin Steele is extremely low. Steele is among the best pitchers in all of baseball this season and currently has the second-best odds to win the NL Cy Young award (though Blake Snell seems to have that locked up). He has pitched a scoreless first inning in 23 of his 28 starts this season, while the Pirates are 28th in the league in first-inning offense.
As with the Marlins/Mets YRFI pick, there is always some risk relying only on one team to score a run to hit your bet, but the odds in both cases make it worthwhile. Tailing both of these picks also reduces some of the risk, as a split on two bets at better than even money would still yield a small profit.