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Top MLB NRFI Picks & Odds for Wednesday, May 4th

May the 4th be with you! We are now almost a month into the season, and we are already seeing some separation in the standings. In a months time, the standings will naturally flip, because that’s baseball, though I wouldn’t say any of the top teams right now are out of place right now.

There are many ways to bet on a baseball game. One of the most exciting ways, now, is 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!

Check out our No Runs First Inning consensus odds for today >>

Seattle Mariners at Houston Astros

Let’s take a second to appreciate the greatness of Justin Verlander. Although he’s not missing bats at the same rate as he has in the past thus far, he still has been ultra-effective (2.60 SIERA/skill interactive ERA) thus far, re-cementing himself as a clear ace. He may be 39-years-old and went basically two years without pitching in a game, but he’s still thriving!

With the seventh-highest weighted-runs-created-plus (wRC+) versus right-handed pitchers, the Mariners lineup has been very productive this season. For what it’s worth, though, they have cooled off considerably since the start of the season, and it’s always hard to not bet on a pitcher of Verlander’s caliber. Thus far this season, Verlander has been absolutely dominant (38.9% K) the first through the order, and all projections point to him being a 3.30 ERA type of pitcher. The baseline expectation should certainly be that he gets through the first order cleanly.

Really, the risky part of expecting no runs in the first inning comes from Matt Brash, who has just a 3.9% K-BB ratio this season. That being said, a lot of his numbers are skewed by facing a Royals team that simply doesn’t strike out. The walks (16.9% BB) are a notable issue, but he’s still a well-regarded prospect that misses plenty of bats and induces plenty of ground balls. That’s a combination I want to take a chance on, especially since the concerns about it help keep the price from being too expensive. We’ll have to sweat out the bottom of the first, but given our confidence in the first half of the inning going smoothly, it’s worthwhile to bank to take a chance here.

Bet: SEA at HOU NRFI (-130)

Tampa Bay Rays at Oakland A’s

Assuming no runs score this inning means that you’re laying a decent price, but, in this case, it’s worth it. There is no game I’d expect fewer runs to be scored than this one.

The A’s may have undergone a roster teardown, but they still have one more coveted trade chip- Frankie Montas will certainly be coveted by several teams. After all, he’s adding on to his excellent finish to last season with a 3.05 SIERA and 13.6% swinging-strike rate thus far, and there’s added upside here if he continues to make his splitter, one of the premier pitches in all of baseball (51.4% whiff rate last year), his most-used pitch (30.9%). The 29-year-old continues to put it all together as an impact frontline starter, and it always helps that he’ll be backed by arguably the most pitcher-friendly ballpark in all of baseball.

If he gets through the first inning smoothly, we’re in luck here; the A’s have the fifth-lowest wRC+ this season and don’t possess the impact talent at the top of their lineup to be concerned about. Meanwhile, Corey Kluber (3.58 SIERA, 12.1% swinging-strike rate) has quietly been effective this season for the Rays, and has specifically thrived when working the first time through the order (30.6% K). Obviously, it’s a very small sample, but those splits do make sense considering he isn’t expected to work deep into games at this stage of his career; you’d expect him to be more susceptible to a drop-off in production the later he goes into a game.

Two pitchers to believe in, one really poor offense, a very pitchers-friendly ballpark; there is a reason you’re laying a decent price here. That being said, it is more than worth it. We’ll see if the Rays can complete the sweep, though that comes after a quick-and-easy first inning.

Bet: TB at OAK NRFI (-165)

Arizona Diamondbacks at Miami Marlins

In a perfect world, you’ll have a matchup with reliable pitching AND poor offenses to take the NRFI bet on. Then again, we don’t live in a perfect world, and matchups like that are going to be priced too heavily to the under to bet on them.

In this case, we may not have the most reliable pitching matchup, but we do get the second part of our wish. With the second-worst wRC+ in the league, the Diamondbacks lineup has been extremely unproductive this season, and I don’t expect that to change today against Elieser Hernandez, who has flashed early with a 16.9% K-BB ratio and a 3.79 ERA. Overlook the 5.75 ERA, which comes with an absurdly high 2.66 home runs/nine innings, and instead bank on the underlying skills we can count on. He’s not someone who works deep into games, but all we’re looking for is one clean inning against an extremely poor lineup, which he should be able to provide.

On the surface, the Marlins have been a strong offense this season with the eighth-highest wRC+ in baseball. However, with two of their usual top-four hitters, Jazz Chisholm Jr. and Jesus Sanchez, being left-handed hitters, their lineup takes a notable hit against left-handed pitching. That would help explain why, in a minuscule sample, they’ve been a bottom-ten lineup in all of baseball against lefties so far. Don’t use that point to pick the under here, but, rather, fade a lineup that looks productive on the surface, but isn’t suited well for the handedness of the pitcher.

While it hasn’t been pretty for Madison Bumgarner in terms of his underlying numbers thus far, could you give a tougher start to the season than four of his first five starts coming against the Padres, Astros, Mets, and Cardinals? He’ll get to take advantage of a pitchers-friendly ballpark and an overall drop-off in competition compare to what he has been facing, which makes him a more trustworthy option than he normally would be.

Neither of these pitchers is reliable- they’re a threat to give up a home run at any time. Generally, though, they are two pitchers who won’t batters or allow a lot of base runners, making this a “feast or famine” situation in terms of a home run being the clear pathway to success; it’s mainly how these two lineups have scored their runs this season. At a time when balls are traveling shallower than ever and in an expansive ballpark, that is a style of play that likely won’t translate to a lot of runs in this game. Feel confident in no run being scored in the first inning here.

Bet: ARI at MIA NRFI (-140)

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Author: Micheal May