MLB picks Thursday 3/28: YRFI & NRFI best bets today: Quick start for pitchers in Arlington

Texas Rangers starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi (17) reacts against the Houston Astros in the first inning during game six of the ALCS for the 2023 MLB playoffs at Minute Maid Park.
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Caleb Wilfinger


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Deputy Editor for Pickswise with years of experience handicapping and giving out winning picks. Lover of all US sports and Southampton FC. For Caleb Wilfinger media enquiries, please email
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The long wait is over! After an eventful offseason that featured plenty of moves that shook up the sport, the MLB regular season is finally here. While there are plenty of ways to wager on all of the action on the diamond this season, one of the quickest bets you can make is if a run will be scored in the first inning. There is still value to be had in this market, so it’s no wonder that these bets have become very popular over time. If you don’t like sweating out your wagers for 3 hours, this one will take only about 15 minutes.

I ended last season on a 42-23 run with my YRFI/NRFI plays and picked up a win to start this season, so let’s keep that momentum going! But before we dive in, don’t forget to check out our MLB picks for today’s Opening Day games.

Chicago Cubs vs Texas Rangers: NRFI (-115)

Odds available at DraftKings Sportsbook at time of publishing. 

MLB Opening Day typically features a number of strong starting pitching matchups and that’s exactly what we’re getting in Arlington, Texas when the Rangers host the resurgent Chicago Cubs on Thursday. For the hosts, Nathan Eovaldi continues to be a rock-solid presence in the Rangers rotation, finishing with an ERA of 3.63, xBA of .238 and wOBA of .296 last season. Eovaldi is known to be a pitcher who is solid, but improves with pressure in the postseason. And while that statement is true, the veteran right-hander has finished inside the top 5% of all qualified pitchers in fewest walks issued in 4 of the last 6 seasons. It isn’t easy to hit off Eovaldi, and I don’t expect a fast start for the Cubs offense on the road.

On the other side, Justin Steele has been a consistent favorite of mine over the last two seasons, as he induces a ton of ground balls, doesn’t walk opposing hitters and consistently generates weak contact regardless of opponent. Steele’s xBA for his career sits at an impressive .240 while his xWOBA checks in at .295 over his first 3 seasons in the majors. The Rangers lineup is a dangerous unit, but I have full confidence in the left-hander to take care of the lefties (Corey Seager, Evan Carter) at the top of the Texas order and escape the first inning unscathed. Let’s get to the window with the NRFI in this one.

Read our full Chicago Cubs vs Texas Rangers predictions

Washington Nationals vs Cincinnati Reds: YRFI (-105)

Odds available at DraftKings Sportsbook at time of publishing. 

Unlike the first game I touched on above, these are a pair of pitchers that I’m looking to fade in the early portion of the 2024 season. On one side, we don’t have a real idea what we’re going to get from Frankie Montas at this point, and I actually think we’re getting a bit of value in the market on this YRFI number given that his last couple of starts in spring training were so successful. However, this is still a pitcher who barely took the mound last season and ended the 2022 campaign poorly, so it wouldn’t surprise me if he found his form after his first couple of starts this season.

Montas introduces a ton of variance into this game, but Josiah Gray has been just as vulnerable to getting roughed up in his time with the Nationals. Preseason projections are very low on Gray, with some models projecting his FIP over 5.00, which is extremely concerning against a Reds lineup that has some real power at the top. Let’s look for an early run in Cincinnati at this discounted number.

Find out our expert’s MLB Opening Day best bet

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