After an action-packed weekend of MLB baseball, we have 10 Monday games on tap and lots of value in No Run First Inning (NRFI) and Yes Run First Inning (YRFI) prop bets. Let’s take a look at the odds for some of the key matchups on 7/3/2023 and make some predictions.
Chicago Cubs vs. Milwaukee Brewers NRFI (-110)
Starting Pitchers: LHP Drew Smyly (7-5, 3.96 ERA) vs. RHP Julio Teherán (2-3, 2.85 ERA)
This is perhaps my favorite bet of the entire slate, as the NRFI somehow finds itself as a very slight underdog in a game I could easily see being a pitcher’s duel, especially in the early going.
It starts with Milwaukee’s Julio Teherán, who is having a fantastic start to the year, with an ERA below 3.00 and a WHIP below 1.000. He’s not much of a velocity guy at this point in his career, but his excellent control has led to a very low walk-rate, and hitters are unable to really hit him hard. Very relevantly, he has yet to allow a first inning run in 7 outings.
Chicago’s Drew Smyly has had a solid start to the year overall, albeit a small step back from what was a massively resurgent 2022. Conversely to Teherán, opponents get to him in the first inning more than others, but the good news is that the Brewers just don’t score all that much. They have the 24th-highest scoring offense in the league, on the 27th best team OPS.
Atlanta Braves vs. Cleveland Guardians NRFI (-110)
Starting Pitchers: RHP Bryce Elder (6-1, 2.44 ERA) vs. RHP Gavin Williams (0-0, 2.84 ERA)
In this matchup, all eyes will be on Cleveland’s Gavin Williams, a 2021 first round pick out of East Carolina. He has great stuff in terms of velocity, made even more effective by exceptional extension, and is entering a key third start in his MLB career.
He was knocked around in first big league start, but threw 7 one-hit innings in his second. There’s a good chance his first outing can be attributed to jitters, and the electric performance in his second is what we can expect to see going forward.
Atlanta’s Bryce Elder is also throwing very well this year after a promising rookie campaign in 2022. and has been exceptional in the first.You can’t ask for much more than his overall 2.44 ERA, the second-best in the MLB amongst qualified starters, but he’s even better in the first frame with a figure of 1.12. With Cleveland’s offense not exactly being the league’s best (bottom-5 in most categories), I have immense confidence in him to get the first three outs.
Los Angeles Angels vs. San Diego Padres NRFI (-135)
Starting Pitchers: RHP Shohei Ohtani (7-3, 3.02 ERA) vs. LHP Blake Snell (4-7, 3.21 ERA)
Yes, we absolutely have to take a look at this game, where former Cy Young award winner Blake Snell will face off against the future 2023 AL MVP, Shohei Ohtani. As well as running away with the MLB home run lead in Aaron Judge’s absence, Ohtani is pitching just about the best he ever has at the MLB level with an ERA and WHIP just above 3.00 and 1.000, respectively.
Let’s also give all due credit to Snell, who is top-20 in ERA in the field of all qualified starting pitchers. By most measures, this is the best he’s thrown since his unbelievable, award-winning 2018 campaign. Both of these aces are pretty solid first-inning arms, with numbers fairly close to their excellent overall statistics.
With two aces squaring off, and one offense that has failed to live up to the hype, we have to take NRFI at -135. A scoreless first may be bittersweet for Ohtani, who will partake in both halves of the inning, but not for us, as there’s good money to be made in this fascinating matchup.
Honorable Mention NRFI 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
Baltimore Orioles vs. New York Yankees NRFI (-125)
I’d be remiss to ignore Domingo German’s first outing after his historic perfect game. The highly controversial and enigmatic Yankees starter has been rough overall and in the first inning, but some newly-earned confidence and a date with the league’s 28th-best first inning offense may be just what he needs. He’ll be throwing against young righty Tyler Wells, who has been very good so far this year, including in first innings.
Cincinnati Reds vs. Washington Nationals YRFI (-135)
I just had to sneak in at least one YRFI! The value here centers around Cincy’s Luke Weaver, who has had a rough start to the year, especially in the first inning where he has an ERA over 15, a pretty staggering figure. Washington’s Jake Irvin has been decent on the year, and the first inning has been no exception. Throw in Cincy’s red-hot form and The Nats’ shocking top-8 first inning offense, and you’ve got a recipe for some runs.