bestodds logo

NRFI Picks For MLB | May 20


Thomas Snodgrass

Updated: May 21, 2024

  • DraftKings logo
    Claim Bet $5 Get $200 Instantly
    Claim Now21+ to wager. Please Gamble Responsibly. Gambling problem? Call 800-GAMBLER, 877-8-HOPENY or text HOPENY (467369) (NY), 800-327-5050 (MA), 800-NEXT-STEP (AZ), 800-522-4700 (KS, NV), 800-BETS-OFF (IA), 800-270-7117(MI), 877-718-5543 (NC).

Over the last five days, from May 15th through May 19, the NRFI record was just 32-33.

The bats tend to heat up with the weather, and as the MLB season approaches the warmer portion of the schedule, the batted balls should be flying a bit further, which could make traversing the NRFI minefield slightly more difficult.

BestOdds EDGE can help bettors spot red flags in pitching matchups and avoid lineups that are frequently putting numbers on the board in the first inning.

Also, the data and insights on BestOdds EDGE can assist bettors in finding a YRFI as well, if one is inclined to place a wager on a run being scored in the opening frame.

With 12 MLB games on the slate, and 10 games being the start of a new series, bettors have a chunk of first inning bets to consider on this fresh Monday schedule.

Let’s take a deeper look at the first-inning action, and with BestOdds EDGE lending a helpful hand, discover some potentially profitable NRFI bets.

As always, all NRFI picks are paired with the best odds!

Detroit Tigers vs. Kansas City Royals

The Detroit Tigers meet the Kansas City Royals on Monday night, the first game of a three-game series.

In the top of the first, Royals’ righty Michael Wacha will take the mound against the Tigers’ offense.

Wacha (3-4, 4.71 ERA) has not allowed a baserunner to reach in the first inning in his last two starts, and Detroit’s offense has been silent in the opening frame over their last 10 games.

Here’s a comparison of each team’s offense in the first inning over the last 10 games, courtesy of BestOdds EDGE.

The Tiger’s offense has not scored a single run in the first inning in any of their last 10, and their offense has been almost non-existent.

That should bode well for Wacha, whose .182 opponent average and 0.89 WHIP in the first could get even lower on Monday.

As we can see in the BestOdds EDGE offensive comparison above, the Royals’s offense has been jumping out early, producing solid offensive numbers and scoring a run in the first inning in four of their last 10 games.

But, Wacha’s mound opponent, Reese Olson, has quietly been one of the best pitchers in the American League in the first month and a half of the 2024 season.

Olson (0-4, 2.09 ERA) currently holds the fifth-best ERA, the eighth-best opposing batting average (.192), and tied for the fourth best WHIP (0.99) in the AL.

Naturally, Olson has been dominant in the first inning as well, sporting a .074 opponent average and 0.63 WHIP in the opening frame.

As BestOdds EDGE shows, Olson is allowing very few baserunners in the first, letting just four men reach in the first inning in his last five starts.

Throughout the early portion of the 2024 MLB campaign, Olson is a perfect 8-0 on NRFIs in his eight turns this season.

All signs point to a quiet start in KC.

Pick: No Run First Inning (NRFI)

Best Odds: (-115) bet365

Baltimore Orioles vs. St. Louis Cardinals

St. Louis’ Sonny Gray will kick the rubber in the top of the first inning, followed by Baltimore’s Dean Kremer in the bottom half of the inning.

Gray (5-2, 3.05 ERA) allowed a run in the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers two starts ago, putting a blemish on his solid 6-1 NRFI record.

Today, Gray will have the difficult task of keeping the Orioles’ offense off the board in the first inning. That task has become difficult simply because Batlimore’s leadoff hitter, Gunnar Henderson has hit 15 home runs this season, currently tied with Houston Astros outfielder Kyle Tucker for the most homers in the MLB.

Lightning can strike early for O’s in the first, but considering Gray’s ace-quality stuff, and his 0.86 WHIP in the first, he may just need to dodge the long ball.

Gray’s home runs per nine innings have jumped to 1.09 in 2024 from 0.39 in 2023. That’s somewhat concerning, but I’ll take the chance on that number being inflated over a limited six start sample.

Kremer (3-3, 3.72 ERA) has held strong onto a rotation spot for Baltimore, and he’s done a great job of limiting contact (.190 opponent average) and baserunners 1.02 WHIP.

In the first inning, not many pitchers have been better than Kremer, as his miniscule .037 opposing average and 0.25 WHIP in the opening frame are absolute dynamite.

Kremer has allowed just one baserunner to reach in his last five starts combined, and over the course of the season, his NRFI record stands at an crystal clean 8-0.

The Cardinals offense appears to be waking up from their dormant April. Here’s how St. Louis offense performed in April, and how they’ve done since May 1st.

STL OffenseAverageOn Base %Slug %Runs/Game
Through Apr. 30.220 (27th).300 (26th).338 (28th)3.6 (28th)
Since May 1.253 (8th).322 (8th).395 (13th)4.2 (19th)

The Cardinals haven’t been tearing the cover off the ball, but their offense is certainly trending in a positive direction.

Ultimately, the first inning has still been an offensive issue for the Redbirds.

St. Louis is hitting just .209 in 46 first innings this season, and they have scored a run in the opening frame in only nine of those 46 games.

Things are looking better for the Cards’ offense, but Kremer’s arm looks better in this first-inning showdown.

Pick: No Run First Inning (NRFI)

Best Odds: (-115) bet365

Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Los Angeles Dodgers

Yoshinobu Yamamoto was signed to a 12-year, $325 million contract prior to the 2024 season, and the Japanese import has settled in nicely.

Yamamoto (4-1, 3.21 ERA) has been a good addition to the Dodgers, but he has been sweating through the first inning all season.

In nine starts, Yamamoto has allowed a run in the first inning three times, and his .300 opponent average and 1.67 WHIP in the opening frame is the envy of no one.

Clearly, the expensive righty has an issue with keeping the first inning clean, but the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks’ may assist him in getting those numbers down.

Last time Yamamoto faced Arizona (May 1st), he fired six shutout innings, and he could do so once again.

Corbin Carroll, the 2023 NL Rookie of the Year, has gotten off to a dreadful start in 2024, hitting just .191 with two home runs in 173 at-bats; Carroll hit .285 with 25 home runs in 565 at-bats in 2023.

I’d expect Yamamoto to shut down the D-Backs offense in the first, even if he does allow some traffic, but things get really interesting when the Dodgers step to the plate in the bottom half of the inning.

Arizona’s Slade Cecconi, a 24-year-old right handed pitcher that has produced five consecutive perfect first innings this season, will be taking a backseat and working behind an “opener” to limit his innings.

That sounds like over-management to me.

So, today’s starter will be bullpen arm Joe Mantiply.

Mantiply has pitched just 0.2 innings in the opening frame this season, and he did not allow a run.

That’s nice and all, but can he stop the trio of Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, and Shohei Ohtani from scoring in the first inning tonight?

Interestingly, the Dodgers have hit just .128 over their last 10 games in the first inning, which is the third-worst mark in the MLB in that time.

For the thrill of placing a wager on a NRFI, I’ll back the iffy-first-inning arm of Yamamoto to get the job done and back the bullpen arm of Mantiply against a Los Angeles offense that could still score 10 runs but put up a goose egg in the first.

Pick: No Run First Inning (NRFI)

Best Odds: (-113) FanDuel


About the author

A fan of both the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers, which is rare! Thomas provides sports betting content with the intent to educate and enter...

[Read full bio]