Top MLB No Runs First Inning (NRFI) Picks & Odds for Friday, May 20th (2022)

May 20, 2022 - 4:28 PM

Have a day, Trevor Story! With him getting on base in all five plate appearances, hitting three home runs, scoring five runs, and driving in seven runs, it’s safe to say he has a game to remember. For fun, in this game, he had a 1012 weighted-runs-created-plus (wRC+), meaning he was 101.2% better than the league-average hitter, while his wRC+ went up from 80 to 112 in one day. Oh my!

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!


San Diego Padres at San Francisco Giants

The Dodgers may appear to be the top clear team in the NL West, but with the Padres and Giants also in the fold, this is quite the competitive division. With both of these performing well (combined 46-29 record) and trying to continue to position themselves for a playoff spot, this should be a very entertaining series by the bay.

Plus, this also may be the lowest-scoring game of the day, playing in well for no run to be scored in the first inning. Initially, Jakob Junis may not be the type of pitcher that pops off the screen, but the Giants voodoo magic knows no boundaries. See, the 29-year-old has been significant changes to his pitch mix this season:

  • Slider: 39.9% to 56.3%
  • Sinker: 4.1% to 29.2%
  • Changeup: 3.3% to 12.9%
  • 4-Seam Fastball: 34.8% to 1.7%
  • Cutter: 17.4% to 0%

Junis’ cutter, which he introduced last season, was quite ineffective, while his fastball (.418 expected weighted on-base average/xwOBA) has gotten hit significantly hard throughout his career. On the contrary, his slider (.243 xwOBA, 36.6% whiff) has been by far his best pitch. With this change in pitch mix, should we be surprised he’s been fantastic (11.5% swinging-strike rate, 3.27 skill interactive ERA/SIERA) thus far? Absolutely not.

In his last start, Sean Manaea’s sinker velocity (91.9 MPH) was much closer to his peak velocity. Regardless, he’s been effective (13.4% swinging-strike rate, 3.18 SIERA) this season, and his new fly-ball inducing style with more elevated sinkers works much better in a very expansive ballpark. With two intriguing pitchers in the ideal environment for no offensive success, the under here is a strong bet.

Bet: SD at SF NRFI (-130)

Tampa Bay Rays at Baltimore Orioles

Considering these two teams are in the bottom-six in payroll, you won’t expect there to be already an 8.5 game difference between these teams. However, that’s the magic of the Rays for you!

Speaking of the Rays, they’re back to maximizing their roster in this game, utilizing Jalen Beeks as an opener for Ryan Yarbrough. In 35 innings since the start of the 2020, Beeks’ numbers have been off the charts:

  • 30.9% K, 25.2% K-BB, 2.58 SIERA

With the ability to miss bats (15% swinging-strike rate) and induce an extensive amount of ground balls (50%), Beeks is the complete package as a reliever. Between leadoff hitter Cedric Mullins being a lefty and #3 hitter Anthony Santander being a switch-hitter who has historically struggled much more versus left-handed pitchers, Beeks is in good position to hold down the fort against an Orioles lineup that already ranks fourth-worst in wRC+ versus left-handed pitching. Well, he’d be in position to perform well regardless of opponent.

With just a 16.4% strikeout rate this season, Tyler Wells wouldn’t seem overly impressive at first glance. Yet, his underlying numbers, including a 10.6% swinging-strike rate, point to some positive regression in the strikeout department. Plus, believe it or not, but based on Eno Sarris’ pitching+ model, which has proven to be very predictive, Wells is only behind Kevin Gausman in pitching+ (111.8) for starting pitchers, which speaks to his combination of a tremendous arsenal (108.4 stuff+) and command (109.8 location+).

Remember, Wells was Baltimore’s top high-leverage reliever last year for a reason, and it’s encouraging to see his underlying pitch data numbers still be strong in extended outings. He’s still not likely to pitch more than five innings in this game, but he should be effective on a per-pitch basis.

Once upon a time, expecting runs to not be scored at Camden Yards would be a scary thought. Now, with the dimensions greatly altered, that is no longer the case. Once Beeks turns the game over to Yarbrough and Wells eventually exits/gets fatigued, more runs will likely be scored here. Don’t count on that happening in the first inning, however.

Bet: TB at BAL NRFI (-102)

Detroit Tigers at Cleveland Guardians

It’s time to continue to risk it for the biscuit!

With a 9.85 ERA in six starts this season, to say that things haven’t gone as planned for Guardians starter Aaron Civale would be the understatement of the century. Yet, it’s hard to buy into those struggles when all of his basic underlying indicators (15.7% K-BB, 3.99 SIERA) are right in line with what you’d expect from him as a steady starter. Unless you think that his .382 batting average on balls in play allowed (BABIP), 44% left-on-base-rate, or 2.19 HR/9 will maintain, which natural laws of statistics would say they certainly won’t, we should see him perform remarkably better in a hurry.

Of course, it helps when you get to face a Tigers lineup that ranks second-worst in wRC+ that is also by far scoring the fewest amount of runs (2.8) in baseball. With Austin Meadows out of the lineup due to injury, the lineup only takes a greater hit. It’s only a matter of time before Civale gets back on track, and this is quite the opportunity.

On the other hand, Tigers starter Tarik Skubal is quickly emerging as one of the more exciting young pitchers in baseball. We were hoping that the lefty would take a step forward this season, and with a 28.3% strikeout rate, 23.3% K-BB, and 2.80 SIERA, he has clearly done just that. By cutting down on his fastball usage to induce more ground balls (48.1%) with his sinker, he’s adapting to improve from his home run issues from last season, while his ability to strike batters out is well documented. Essentially, he doesn’t walk batters, can induce plenty of whiffs, and now has made adjustments to induce ground balls? That sounds like a pretty reliable pitcher.

The Guardians offense has dropped off significantly (sixth-worst wRC+) versus lefties, and they lack any sort of power at the top of their lineup. Factor in the growth that Skubal has taken, and this likely comes down to Civale, which is a chance worth taking against arguably the worst lineup in baseball. This price is much lower than it should be due to some concerns about sides, but that is something to take advantage of.

Bet: DET at CLE NRFI (+104)


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The post Top MLB No Runs First Inning (NRFI) Picks & Odds for Friday, May 20th (2022) appeared first on BettingPros.

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