NRFI Bets to Target on Monday 4/1/24

Kenyatta Storin
Kenyatta Storin@KenyattaStorin
NRFI Bets to Target on Monday 4/1/24

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

Texas Rangers at Tampa Bay Rays

Under 1st Inning 0.5 Runs (+100)

When compared to the other games with totals below 9.0 runs today, this Texas Rangers-Tampa Bay Rays matchup has appealing odds for a NRFI, as it's actually the Yes Run First Inning (YRFI) side that has the far shorter odds (-128).

But can we trust starters Dane Dunning and Ryan Pepiot to pitch a scoreless frame against a pair of potent top-of-the-orders?

Texas' Dunning posted a promising 27.4% strikeout rate and 22.2% swinging-strike rate in spring training. His toughest test will be keeping left-handed batter Brandon Lowe in the yard, as he should have a reasonable shot of handling the righties atop Tampa's order.

The first through the order in 2023, the righty was rock-solid in same-handed matchups with a 3.62 xFIP, 22.0% strikeout rate, 6.8% walk rate, and 59.8% ground-ball rate. That was in stark contrast to his split versus lefty sticks, against whom he posted a discouraging 4.70 xFIP, 19.8% strikeout rate, 12.1% walk rate, and 42.3% ground-ball rate.

While this is a notable concern against a power-hitter like Lowe, we do have a couple of things working in Dunning's favor. Lowe recorded a 27.3% strikeout rate last season and is up at 33.3% to begin 2024. He's also consistently held a double-digit walk rate, which might not be the worst thing here because we'd rather see Lowe take first base than knock one into the outfield seats.

As for Pepiot, he came over to the Rays in the Tyler Glasnow trade, and Tampa Bay is hoping for strong early returns after the righty put up a 29.6% strikeout rate and 14.0% swinging-strike rate this spring.

We don't have a large sample of Pepiot as a starter in 2023, but in his 8 1/13 innings the first time through the order, he posted a 3.52 xFIP and 29.6% strikeout rate with no walks.

The big issue for the righty will be handling the Rangers' lefties Corey Seager and Evan Carter, a dangerous duo who could put a swift end to this bet. While Pepiot's season-long splits showed lethal marks versus righties last season, he was shakier facing lefties with a 4.51 xFIP and 17.3% strikeout rate.

But the Rays were clearly high on Pepiot as a trade target, and late reports in spring training were overwhelmingly positive. Tampa's tweaks to the 26-year-old's arsenal could help him even up those splits and open the door for a breakout season. While it's a leap of faith, the unfamiliarity with the Rays version of Pepiot should favor the pitcher to begin the year.

Finally, as is always the case with Rays home games, pitcher-friendly Tropicana Field is always our friend for a NRFI, which could also lend a hand to both pitchers.

St. Louis Cardinals at San Diego Padres

Under 1st Inning 0.5 Runs (-106)

Similar to the previous game, this matchup has a lower total (8.0 runs), yet we see the NRFI side priced as the less likely outcome. Those odds presumably stem from the uncertainty of San Diego Padres starter Matt Waldron.

Waldron is a knuckleballer who wasn't necessarily expected to make the rotation, but an encouraging spring training earned him a spot. While he was probably lucky to come away with a 1.35 ERA, he still managed a 3.56 xFIP and didn't allow any walks or home runs. His 21.2% strikeout rate might not move the needle, but he must have had that knuckleball dancing, as he induced a 35.1% swinging-strike rate and 48.7% ground-ball rate.

Of course, it's never easy to trust a knuckleballer, and Waldron's first stint in the big leagues was underwhelming last season (4.79 xFIP over 41 1/3 innings). But his strong spring numbers -- particularly the swinging-strike rate and lack of walks -- are an indication he can open the year on a high note, and it's not like he relies solely on the one pitch, as it's one of several weapons in his repertoire.

And given that there isn't anyone else throwing knuckleballs these days, the St. Louis Cardinals' batters won't have much of a reference point entering tonight, either.

St. Louis will have a more conventional starter in right-hander Kyle Gibson. While he lacks big K numbers, he held a 50.5% ground-ball rate the first time through the order last year, helping him to a 3.86 xFIP. He gave up just 0.9 home runs per nine innings in that sample, too.

Gibson is generally weaker facing lefties, but Jake Cronenworth should be the only left-handed batter he sees in the opening inning.

Temperatures will be at or below 60 degrees at Petco Park, further decreasing the chance of a long ball from either side. And like Tropicana Field, this venue is about as friendly as they come for pitchers, ranking 30th in park factor on Baseball Savant.

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The above author is a FanDuel employee and is not eligible to compete in public daily fantasy contests or place sports betting wagers on FanDuel. The advice provided by the author does not necessarily represent the views of FanDuel. Taking the author's advice will not guarantee a successful outcome. You should use your own judgment when participating in daily fantasy contests or placing sports wagers.