With a full Sunday slate of 15 MLB games, and a great selection of star pitching talent in action, there’s plenty of value on the board when it comes to No Run First Inning (NRFI) or Yes Run First Inning (YRFI) props. Let’s take a deep dive into NRFI odds for some of these pivotal matchups on 7/2/2023 and make some predictions.
Florida Marlins vs. Atlanta Braves NRFI (-135)
Starting Pitchers: RHP Sandy Alcántara (3-6, 4.82 ERA) vs. RHP Spencer Strider (9-2, 3.73 ERA)
-135 odds don’t exactly provide astronomical value for an NRFI prop, but this one is simply a can’t-miss wager. Atlanta’s Spencer Strider has been excellent this season by just about every measure. He’s near the top of the league in key metrics such as fastball velocity and spin, while striking out more batters than just about anyone else.
The first inning has been no exception, as he’s putting up a 2.81 ERA in the opening frame. To top it all off, the Marlins have been one of the worst first-inning offenses in the league; only the Mets have scored fewer first-inning runs.
On the other side of things, reigning Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcántara hasn’t been up to his exceptional 2022 form, as his ERA is up in the high 4’s. That being said, his velocity and chase rate have held steady, while his spin has actually improved; the talent is still there.
Regardless of the overall regression, he’s tossing an ERA of 2.25 in the first inning, so he’s been a strong starter. Atlanta has a very good first-inning offense as well, but I believe enough in Sandy to get the first three outs to back the -135 odds on NRFI in this matchup.
Minnesota Twins vs. Baltimore Orioles NRFI (-110)
Starting Pitchers: RHP Sonny Gray (4-2, 2.67 ERA) vs. LHP Cole Irvin (1-3, 7.81 ERA)
Here’s an interesting one, with a Cy Young contender on one side, and a guy who’s really struggled on the other. Minnesota’s Sonny Gray is having a very good season overall, as over the past couple of seasons, he seems to have recaptured some of the early-career form that made him a star in Oakland. He’s also only allowed 2 first-inning runs in 16 starts this year for an ERA just over 1.
Conversely, Baltimore’s Cole Irvin has some shaky numbers, there’s no way around that. That being said, his performance is far better in the first inning (4.50 ERA) than it is later in the game after the lineup has had a chance to see him. Moreover, the Twins aren’t too potent of an offense as they sit just 20th in the league in scoring, including 18th in the first inning. Baltimore’s lineup has been a lot better overall, but they’re actually 27th in the league in first-inning scoring, which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.
With this in mind, I believe that Irvin can navigate the first three outs, and I’m very confident in Gray, so I’m a big fan of the -110 value here. Irvin gives me a bit of pause, but if you want to get near-even odds on a game involving one of the league’s hottest starters, an opposing pitcher whose numbers are rough on the surface is a great way to find it, and his first-inning performances make this wager more than viable.
New York Yankees vs. St. Louis Cardinals NRFI (-130)
Starting Pitchers: RHP Gerrit Cole (8-1, 2.78 ERA) vs. LHP Jordan Montgomery (5-7, 3.52 ERA)
In a day after a draining double-header in a matchup where both teams have strong starters going, it’s hard not to be a fan of NRFI. New York’s Ace Gerrit Cole is putting together perhaps his best season in pinstripes. He’s not racking up the strikeouts like he has in the past, but his spin and velocity are on point and he’s keeping the ball in the park, all of which has contributed to some very effective work this year.
His opponent on Sunday will be former Yankee Jordan Montgomery, who has been excellent ever since he left the Bronx. Montgomery isn’t a power-pitcher like Cole, but he has great control and limits walks well, and limits hard hits effectively.
Neither offense is particularly lively right now, and as I alluded to, these teams are also coming off of a double header, which even featured a rain delay. After a very long Saturday, there might be some substitutions at the top of both lineups, and anyone who played both games and is not getting a rest could get off to a slow start. In what figures to be a veritable pitching duel, I’ll take -130 for NRFI.
Now that we’ve taken a good look at my favorite picks, let’s highlight a couple of honorable mentions that could also provide you with some good value
Boston Red Sox vs. Toronto Blue Jays YRFI (+100)
Garrett Whitlock has struggled this year across the board with an ERA over 5, and while Kevin Gausman has by and large been excellent, he’s throwing a 6.35 ERA in first innings. Throw in two above-average offenses in a hitter-friendly park and you’ve got a recipe for some early runs and great value at even money.
Detroit Tigers vs. Colorado Rockies YRFI (-165)
At -165, this is more of a parlay leg than a standalone bet, but it’s a great situation for some runs to be scored. Any game in Colorado already stands a chance of being pretty high-scoring, neither starter is having a particularly good year, and Colorado’s Connor Seabold has an especially tough time in the first inning- expect some opening-frame runs.