If you look at yesterday’s games, it was quite an uneven slate. Between Rangers/A’s, Royals/Twins, Guardians/Tigers, and Brewers/Cardinals, there were a lot of very close games, and then there were the Reds, Red Sox, and Dodgers all scoring double-digit runs. Heck, the Reds even scored 20 runs! That certainly isn’t the game you’d want to be the “under” on.
There are many ways to bet on a baseball game. One of the most exciting ways, now, are No Run First Inning Bets (NRFI). Really, it’s as simple as it sounds; you can bet on whether a run will be scored by either team in the first inning. Especially at a time when scoring is at an all-time low, it’s more likely than not that a run is not scored, leading to prices being juiced towards the “under” taking place. Even with that, the most logical bets are usually to side with the under, as you’ll see here!
Pittsburgh Pirates at San Diego Padres
Yellow certainly isn’t the most common color for a baseball team, though don’t tell that to these two teams! In fact, these two teams matching up always makes for one of the most aesthetically-pleasing games that you can have, which makes it worth watching on its own.
What also makes it worth watching? Seeing your NRFI bet cash through. After being traded to the Padres, starter Sean Manaea has been fantastic in eight starts this season, sporting a career-best 27.6% strikeout rate and 3.36 skill interactive ERA (SIERA). Meanwhile, in his last three starts, his sinker velocity (91.7 MPH) has been make in line with where it was last year, only adding more reason to be have confidence in him. Of course, it also helps to face a Pirates offense scoring the third-fewest runs (3.4) per games this season.
The Padres have had a very successful year up to this point, but they only rank 19th in weighted-runs-created-plus (wRC+) so far, and the top of their lineup is hurt facing lefties with Jake Cronenworth and Eric Hosmer being left-handed hitters, while switch hitter Jurickson Profar has historically performed better versus right-handed pitchers. That is great news for Pirates starter Jose Quintana, who has made legitimate changes to his arsenal, throwing his 4-seam fastball and sinker less while doubling the usage of his changeup, a strategy that can work against the team with the fourth-lowest runs above average versus changeups this season. With a 4.19 SIERA, he’s been a steady contributor for them, and that should continue here.
These two lefties, albeit at different levels, have been reliable this season, and will also benefit from playing at Petco Park, which is tied for the fourth-lowest park factor for right-handed hitters, per Baseball Savant. Especially at a relatively cheap price compared to other games that should finish with a similar total, this would appear to be the best NRFI bet of the day.
New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays
It’s still very early in the season, but anytime these two teams match up, there will always be massive implications on the AL postseason race. After a Yankees win to start the reason, can the small-market Rays even it up? We’ll see, but it will start with a clean first inning.
By now, it’s well documented Tampa Bay possesses a churning factory of pitchers, and Jeffrey Springs is the latest project. Acquired from the Red Sox prior to last season, the 29-year-old was a very effective reliever (2.66 SIERA) for them, but has since been moved to the rotation, where he has performed quite well (3.30 SIERA). Eno Sarris’ predictive pitching+ model (111.2) would put him fourth amongst starters, which is notable considering he hasn’t lost any velocity since moving into the rotation. He will never be tasked with going deep into games, but on a per-pitch basis, he’s the real deal.
Yankees starter Jameson Taillon, meanwhile, has bounced back nicely (3.71 SIERA) from a slightly disappointing (4.33 SIERA) season last year, and has made legitimate changes to his arsenal, decreasing the usage of his four-seam fastball while incorporating a cutter more into his arsenal. The result? More ground balls, which allows for better home run suppression, while he has been exceptional in terms of not allowing free passes (2.8% BB). While you’d prefer if he also missed more bats, the limited risk of home runs or walks leads to much less volatility, which is useful in an NRFI bet.
To top it off, Tropicana Field is tied for the third-lowest park factor, per Baseball Savant. These are two productive offenses, but with how dominant Springs can be in limited outings and the improvements Taillon has made, it’s hard not buy in here.
Milwaukee Brewers at St.Louis Cardinals
Speaking of tightly-contested divisional matchups, we don’t even have other parties to worry about in the NL Central, as is the case in the NL East. It’s practically a lock that the division will be decided by one of those two teams, making these games extremely important.
Milwaukee is in luck here, as they’ll send Brandon Woodruff to the mound. Don’t let his 4.74 ERA fool you; with a 3.11 SIERA and 21.6% K-BB ratio, he’s continued to be an elite pitcher this year. Cardinals starter Dakota Hudson, meanwhile, hasn’t been as reliable, but his ability to induce ground balls (58.4%) works tremendously playing behind an elite infield defense, and with Busch Stadium surprising left-handed home runs at the third-highest rate, he also allows very few home runs. Thus, even if his peripherals don’t indicate him being a pitcher to count on, the external circumstances here as elite as it gets.
Two superb defenses, a very pitcher-friendly ballpark, and the prescience of an ace in Woodruff? Sign me up. It may get a bit dicey in the top of the first, but if that gets settled, we’re in a good spot here. There’s more risk that we’d like for this price, but the value is still on the NRFI.
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