Playoff races are intensifying across the league, as the contenders have failed to separate themselves and the pretenders refuse to drop off; almost every battle that looked interesting a month ago is still tight. With 12 teams in action this Thursday, the stakes are high for several playoff hopefuls. Let’s go find some value in No Run First Inning (NRFI) and Yes Run First Inning (YRFI) props in the games on 9/7/2023 and make some predictions.
Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Miami Marlins NRFI (-105)
Starting Pitchers: RHP Ryan Pepiot (1-0, 1.29 ERA) vs. LHP Braxton Garrett (8-5, 3.86 ERA)
Let’s start off our cruise through the limited Thursday slate with some essentially even-money value on some good arms. Betting against the Miami offense in the first inning is always a great opportunity, as their 0.42 runs per first inning is 29th-best in the majors, only ahead of the disastrous Mets.
Even in their 11-run Wednesday outburst, they didn’t record a run until the fifth inning, and could have a tough time once again against Ryan Pepiot. He doesn’t have a long track record but has been great to start the season. He’s only made one start, but threw five shutout innings against the division-rival Diamondbacks, a top ten first inning offense. He also had a five inning relief appearance against none other than Miami a couple of weeks ago, in which he gave up just one run.
The Dodgers have a much stronger first inning track record on offense, but Miami southpaw Braxton Garrett should match up well against LA’s lefty stars near the top of the lineup, including Freddie Freeman and Max Muncy. Garrett has fared very well in first innings this season, earning an ERA of 2.77 in opening frames across 26 appearances. As strong as the LA offense has been, he has a great chance to get those first three outs before surrendering a run.
Seattle Mariners vs. Tampa Bay Rays NRFI (-115)
Starting Pitchers:RHP Luis Castillo (11-7, 3.19 ERA) vs. RHP Zack Littell (3-4, 4.69 ERA)
It’s a little bit unorthodox to take a NRFI with two lineups like these, but with two great first inning arms set to throw, it’s worth it, especially with the offenses’ track records driving the value in a favorable direction. It’s also worth noting that Tampa built up much of their track record during a historic start to the season, since which they’ve fallen off quite a bit, and with Wander Franco as a starter; since his possibly permanent exit from the sport, they’re missing a third of the top of their lineup. The Rays will be facing Seattle ace Luis Castillo, one of the best arms in the American League. Like his overall season mark, his first inning ERA is in the low 3’s.
Tampa’s Zach Littell has had a rougher season overall, but has been a great first inning arm, better than Castillo as a matter of fact, albeit across a smaller sample size. Littell has started 10 games this season, but has only allowed one first inning run across those starts. Seattle’s offense is in good form, but might have to wait a bit to kick off the scoring in this one.
Detroit Tigers vs. New York Yankees YRFI (-113)
Starting Pitchers: LHP Eduardo Rodríguez (10-7, 3.11) vs. LHP Carlos Rodón (2-4, 5.70 ERA)
We’ve faded this Yankees offense routinely in recent weeks, but over the past five days, everything has changed. The Martian has landed, as super-prospect Jasson Dominguez has made his pro debut, and across his first five games, is hitting .333 with three homers and a double. The Yankees have won all five games, and look like a totally different team- one capable of scoring runs. Rodríguez has had a pretty good season, but as a lefty, could be in trouble against the righty-heavy Yankee lineup, especially at the top. He’ll face a red-hot DJ LeMahieu, then the incomparable Aaron Judge, followed by Dominguez hitting from the right side. If he’s not able to set the side down in order, he’ll see the quietly excellent Gleyber Torres, who rakes against lefties, and Giancarlo Stanton, who is still dangerous.
The Tigers offense is still just outside the top 20 first inning units, but they’re actually stronger on the road, and get to face lefty Carlos Rodón, who can’t stop a nosebleed. He’s tossing a 4.00 ERA in the first inning, with figures over 10.00 in both the second and third; suffice it to say he has not made a habit of starting strong in ballgames early in his Yankee tenure. This could be a scoring fest early, and at -113 odds, is great value for us to grab.
Cleveland Guardians vs. Los Angeles Angels YRFI (-110)
Starting Pitchers: RHP Cal Quantrill (2-6, 6.16 ERA) vs. TBD
Griffin Canning was initially slated for this start, but his turn in the rotation got moved to Friday. That being said, it’s almost impossible that the Angels pull someone better out of their hat for this game. If they go with a bullpen game, their 4.81 pen era is the league’s seventh worst, while their 4.74 overall figure ranks exactly the same. The Cleveland first-inning offense isn’t a ton better, but the team overall is trending upwards, and they actually kick games off a tad better on the road as compared to home.
The big value here comes in the other half of the inning, when the Angels’ league-average first inning offense, which is slightly better at home and is headlined by Shohei Ohtani, gets to face Cal Quantrill. The Canadian righty is having an awful year after three great ones, as he has dealt with injuries and been completely ineffective when he has been active. Across 14 starts, he’s racked up an ERA over 6.00, with a concerning figure of 7.71 in first innings. A fairly competent Angels lineup should be able to take advantage of the opportunity and hang some early runs on the struggling starter.