NRFI Bets to Target on Thursday 5/16/24

Kenyatta Storin
Kenyatta Storin@KenyattaStorin
NRFI Bets to Target on Thursday 5/16/24

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 today?

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

Best NRFI Prop Bets

Tampa Bay Rays at Boston Red Sox

Under 1st Inning 0.5 Runs (-125)

The odds are leaning slightly toward a NRFI in this matchup between the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox, and with so many factors working toward a low-scoring game, the odds should arguably be even shorter.

Even on a slate with cooler temperatures across the board, Fenway Park is expected to be the coldest venue (mid-50s) and the wind will be blowing in from center at about 10 mph. Throw in some solid starting pitching, and it's easy to see why this game could be low on scoring tonight.

Cooper Criswell is yet another surprise success story for a Boston pitching staff that's completely blown away expectations in 2024. In an age where velocity is all the rage, it remains to be seen whether a guy with an 89 mph fastball can continue to thrive, but he's managed a 3.23 xFIP, 24.8% strikeout rate, and 5.0% walk rate over six appearances (25 2/3 innings). He's converted a NRFI in all five starts.

Given that the 27-year-old has an uninspiring 7.3% swinging-strike rate and has never shown a ton of strikeout upside over his career, it's fair to be skeptical of his K rate. But part of this coaching staff's philosophy revolves around throwing fewer fastballs, so it probably isn't entirely random that a soft-tossing pitcher like Criswell could be benefiting from the strategy.

Further helping him is that Tampa Bay is just a middle-of-the-road offense in the first inning (29.6% YRFI rate). He also has solid numbers against both righties and lefties, so the Rays' tendency to alternate handedness in the top half of the order shouldn't be an issue.

Our other starter, Zack Littell, is also enjoying a fine campaign, coming in with a 3.20 xFIP, 24.1% strikeout rate, and 3.7% walk rate. Although Littell has been scored on in four of eight first innings this season, that's likely just small sample size noise. He's posted a 2.94 xFIP and 36.1% K rate in the first inning and a 2.73 xFIP and 30.6% K rate the first time through the order.

The Red Sox have been one of the league's better teams at scoring in the first inning (37.2% YRFI rate), but Littell will particularly benefit from the pitcher-friendly weather. He's induced just a 34.6% ground-ball rate, which could end up being a strength on a night when fly balls are more likely to turn into easy outs. He's another pitcher with positive underlying numbers against both sides of the plate, as well.

Oakland Athletics at Houston Astros

Over 1st Inning 0.5 Runs (-128)

The Oakland Athletics and Houston Astros combined for just three runs on Wednesday (a 3-0 Houston win), but the Astros scored twice in the first inning, adding yet another YRFI to their ledger. They have a good chance of logging one again tonight, and the A's offense might even get in on the fun, as well. This game has the day's highest over/under (9.0).

Oakland right-hander Joey Estes is making his second start of the season and just the fourth of his career. While he performed admirably against the Seattle Mariners in his 2024 debut, allowing just one earned run in five innings, he was rocked in his two MLB starts last season, and his minor league numbers suggest we should see more of the latter moving forward.

Through six Triple-A starts this season, Estes put up a 5.44 xFIP, 20.8% strikeout rate, and 8.0% walk rate, and he posted similar numbers at that level in 2023. That doesn't lead to much optimism against a lineup that's tied for the third-best YRFI rate (37.2%) with the aforementioned Red Sox. Yordan Alvarez is showing +255 odds to hit a home run, which are presently the lowest odds on the entire slate.

The Athletics have a pitiful 17.8% YRFI rate (second-worst), but a vulnerable Cristian Javier puts even them in prime position to get on the board early, too.

Javier came off an IL stint before his last start and was promptly wrecked by the Detroit Tigers for seven earned runs over just 1 1/3 innings. While he still owns a solid 4.01 ERA over five starts after that implosion, his advanced metrics point to more bad news coming, as he's logged a 5.87 xFIP, 16.7% strikeout rate, 13.9% walk rate, and 24.3% ground-ball rate.

As an extreme fly-ball pitcher, dingers have been part of the equation at times in his career, and that dip in punchouts won't do him any favors. Both Shea Langeliers and Brent Rooker -- Oakland's projected third and fourth hitters -- have pretty low odds to hit a home run at +285 and +330, respectively.

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