MLB

NRFI Bets to Target on Friday 3/29/24

Kenyatta Storin
Kenyatta Storin@KenyattaStorin
NRFI Bets to Target on Friday 3/29/24

The MLB season is an annual marathon that gives us months of daily betting markets to consider.

While traditional player props like home runs and strikeouts remain popular options, one market that's gained steam is betting whether or not no runs will be scored in the first inning -- aka a No Run First Inning (NRFI) bet.

On FanDuel Sportsbook's MLB odds, we can find NRFI odds listed as 1st Inning Over/Under 0.5 Runs odds under each MLB game.

Where can we find value in this unique prop market on Opening Day?

Please note: lines and projections are subject to change throughout the day after this article is published.

Best NRFI Prop Bets

New York Yankees at Houston Astros

Over 1st Inning 0.5 Runs (-122)

As of this writing, two games have 9.0-run totals, the highest mark on Friday's slate. This New York Yankees-Houston Astros matchup is one of them, and between two potent top-of-the-orders and a pair of potentially vulnerable pitchers, this could be ripe for a Yes Run First Inning (YRFI) bet.

Southpaw Carlos Rodon endured a forgettable, injury-marred 2023 campaign, falling well short of expectations in his first season as a Yankee. Unsurprisingly, that included his work in the opening frame, where he was walloped for a 5.75 xFIP (worst among Friday's starters) while posting a 20.3% strikeout rate and 9.4% walk rate. He was demolished by the long ball last season, and that included giving up five bombs in the first inning (3.5 per nine innings).

It was a smaller sample given he made just 14 starts last season, but if we expand out to his first time through the order, his xFIP was actually even worse (6.14).

It's quite possible Rodon regains his prior form and becomes the elite arm the Yankees were hoping for when they signed him. However, he could be a ways off from that still, as he produced a 5.40 xFIP and 20.5% strikeout rate in spring training.

Houston righty Cristian Javier is also coming off a down year. While he did manage a 27.1% strikeout rate in the first inning last season, he recorded a 5.25 xFIP, the third-worst mark on the slate. Most notably, he gave up a 70.7% fly-ball rate that contributed to six first-inning dingers (1.7 per nine innings).

Like Rodon, Javier's spring training doesn't provide optimism behind a 5.90 xFIP, 21.8% strikeout rate, and 12.8% walk rate.

Finally, neither of these lineups needs much of an introduction. Aaron Judge or Juan Soto could single-handedly cash this bet even without the appealing matchup. And even if the Astros opt to keep lefty sticks Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker near the top of the order (as they did against lefty Nestor Cortes yesterday), those two are plenty lethal home-run threats in same-handed matchups.

Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Rays

Under 1st Inning 0.5 Runs (-120)

This matchup was our NRFI target on Opening Day, but a solo home run crushed those dreams -- the lone run scored by both teams in the first three innings.

Well, we're going to give the Toronto Blue Jays and Tampa Bay Rays another shot to pitch a clean first inning. This game is showing a modest 8.0-run total and has capable starters in Chris Bassitt and Aaron Civale.

Bassitt isn't an overpowering hurler by any means, but he's consistently produced year in and year out as shown by his career 3.49 ERA. While that's all well and good, what we really like about him is that he tends to be at his best at the beginning of games.

In 2023, the right-hander put up an elite 29.5% strikeout rate in the first inning and a 30.3% clip the first time through the order -- way, way above his overall 22.5% mark. This doesn't look like a fluke, either, as Bassitt has consistently produced higher K rates in the opening innings over his career.

In Civale's case, it's more about him becoming a different pitcher after joining Tampa Bay midseason in 2023. After getting moved to the Rays, he boasted a 31.3% K rate in the opening frame and 37.8% the first time through the order.

Once again, the ballpark should assist us. Tropicana Field rates as one of the best pitcher's parks, per Baseball Savant.

Of course, the hitters atop these lineups aren't exactly scrubs, but that's something we have to accept for these reasonable odds.

For Bassitt, the biggest threat will be the power swing of left-handed batter Brandon Lowe, as he's more susceptible to giving up dingers versus lefties. The good news is that Lowe also often falls victim to strikeouts, so Bassitt's boosted K rate in the first inning could get the job done.

Civale has been a reverse splits pitcher for most of his career, so Toronto's four righties atop their order aren't ideal. However, he improved to a 25.0% strikeout rate and 5.4% walk rate in same-handed matchups after donning a Rays uniform, a promising trend for his 2024 season.


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