After an eventful trade deadline, MLB teams have decided whether they think they’re contenders or pretenders by either buying or selling. Now it’s time for the on-field results to determine who’s right, with some huge games coming up and with them, huge value in No Run First Inning (NRFI) and Yes Run First Inning (YRFI) props. Let’s take a look at some of the key matchups on 8/7/2023 and make some predictions.
San Francisco Giants vs. Los Angeles Angels NRFI (-120)
Starting Pitchers: RHP Logan Webb (9-9, 3.45 ERA) vs. LHP Patrick Sandoval (6-8, 4.11 ERA)
To get things started, let’s take a look at a West Coast interleague matchup, which features one of the best pitching matchups on a day that is largely devoid of “battle of the aces” types of games. This clash doesn’t exactly fit the bill, but San Francisco will be throwing their best arm, Logan Webb. The Northern California native is having another great year, with a career-best 1.083 WHIP and an NL-best 1.5 walks per 9 innings of work.
He’s tossing against Patrick Sandoval, who has had a bit of a rockier season, but still gives us a few reasons to believe that he can get through the first three outs before allowing a run. Firstly, I love his ability to limit the home run, with just 8 allowed in 19 outings thus far. He’s also coming off of a strong July in which he tossed an ERA of 2.08 across three starts, and was solid in his first outing of August as well. Sandoval is also a lefty, and is going up against a Giants team that has been significantly worse against southpaws than right-handers.
Lastly, neither of these teams has a particularly strong first inning offense; the Angels are 13th in the league and the Giants are 20th, both of which are worse than their overall offense rankings. With teams prone to slow starting and two arms that can get it done, this is a great start to an NRFI ticket for Monday’s action.
New York Yankees vs. Chicago White Sox NRFI (-135)
Starting Pitchers: RHP Gerrit Cole (10-2, 2.64 ERA) vs. RHP Dylan Cease (4-5, 4.61 ERA)
Once again, we have a matchup between one true ace, and then a guy who isn’t as good across the board but can definitely have some first-inning success. We’ll start with the latter, as Chicago’s starter has had some great openings to games, but then ceases to perform as well. Cease has struggled at times but has undoubtedly been sharp in the first frame, in which he has a 2.74 ERA across 23 outings. Unsurprisingly, the heavily right-handed Yankees lineup does significantly better when facing lefties, so that’s another advantage for the right-handed Cease.
And then there’s Gerrit Cole, who has been absolutely fantastic this year in what is looking like it could be a Cy Young winning campaign. His 2.64 ERA is the best in the American League, and just 0.03 behind San Diego’s Blake Snell for the best mark in the majors. He should have no trouble starting strong against a White Sox offense, which is 25th in the sport in both first inning scoring and total runs per game. Similarly, Cease has the pleasure of facing the least productive Yankee lineup in years, as they sit 16th in first inning offense and 21st overall output.
Chicago Cubs vs. New York Mets NRFI (-105)
Starting Pitchers: LHP Drew Smyly (8-7, 4.71 ERA) vs. Kodai Senga (7-6, 3.25 ERA)
At almost even money, this is the best value I’m seeing on the board for Monday. Rookie starting pitcher Kodai Senga has been a definitive bright spot in what has become a lost season for the high-spending Mets, as he seemingly gets better with every outing. Before giving up 3 runs in a slightly uneven most-recent outing, he had given up 2 or fewer in his previous 6 consecutive starts, and would be a surefire Rookie of the Year in many seasons, but will be hurt by a very strong field this time. He’s just a few innings short of qualifying for ERA leaderboards, and would be third in the NL if he was on the list.
Drew Smyly hasn’t been anywhere near as sharp for Chicago, and opens you up to a bit of risk in the bottom half of the inning, but he’s going up against a Mets offense that has been mediocre overall with the league’s 21st best OPS, and has been absolutely putrid to open games. In fact, they have scored the fewest first inning runs of anyone in the big leagues, with just 0.30 per game. They’re not going up against an ace, but it may not matter; they’ve hardly done early damage against anyone this season.
Now that we’ve taken a good look at my favorite picks, let’s highlight a couple of honorable mentions for the August 7th slate that could provide you with some good value
Atlanta Braves vs. Pittsburgh Pirates YRFI (-115)
This is a tough call with Spencer Strider on the mound, but the hard-throwing righty has been a good deal more hittable of late. More importantly, Pittsburgh is throwing rookie Osvaldo Bido, who has had a tough first season in the Show with an ERA over 5.00. Atlanta’s offense is, not very shockingly, perhaps the best in the league to put your money behind. They’re the top squad by first inning scoring by an enormous margin, and second in overall runs per game, so it’s not hard to imagine them getting off to a hot start on Monday.
Washington Nationals vs. Philadelphia Phillies YRFI (-135)
Surprisingly enough, despite being a below-average overall offense, Washington is 5th in the MLB in first inning scoring, while Philly is a less-surprising 10th. Both offenses will also be aided by shaky pitching options on either end, with two pitchers throwing to the tune of an ERA over 4.00. Both are even rougher in the first inning, especially Washington’s Trevor Williams, who has earned a 6.14 ERA in the opening frame across 22 starts.