Jacob DeGrom vs. Max Scherzer and the Stone-Cold NRFI Locks for MLB

Troy HermoContributor IApril 1, 2021

New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom (48) throws during the first inning of a spring training baseball game against the Houston Astros, Tuesday, March 16, 2021, in Port St. Lucie, Fla. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

What is an NRFI? It's a baseball betting proposition that stands for "no-run first inning" where you bet whether there will be zero runs scored in the first frame. Six outs, no runs and you're a winner. It's one of the fastest and best bets in sports. The greatest part of playing NRFIs is the amount of information and stats available to handicap these props.

That's where I come in. My name is Troy Hermo, a 27-year-old sports investor, currently beating stage 4 cancer in beautiful Las Vegas. Every Tuesday I'll sift through the first-inning-based stats and hitter analysis to give the best plays available on the card. You can also follow my daily plays in the B/R Betting community section.

Odds for every NRFI line can be found on DraftKings.


NRFI of the Week: The Hermo Hammer Lock

4-Unit Play: New York Mets (Jacob deGrom) at Washington Nationals (Max Scherzer) -132

Note: A unit is a measurement of how much your base bet is. For example: I go by $10 per unit because I'm a stage 4 cancer patient with lots of bills, but most bettors' units can be anywhere from $50 to $100. Find a limit that works for you and your budget. There's no unit shaming around here.

UPDATE: Originally scheduled for Thursday, this game has been postponed until Saturday due to Covid concerns, with the same pitchers scheduled to start.

In 2020, Jacob deGrom was a force in the first inning. So much so that I gave him the nickname "deNRFI."

In games deGrom started, the NFRI was 8-4. In those 12 starts, deGrom only allowed a run in one of those opening innings, giving him a first-inning ERA of 0.75. Lifetime in the initial frame, deGrom has killed it with a 2.11 ERA, making him a first-ballot NRFI Hall of Famer.

His career average number of batters faced in the first inning is 3.90. With NRFI plays, you want as close to three as possible. Last year was even better, as he averaged only 3.75 batters faced in the first. The first five projected batters for the Nationals whom deGrom will face are hitting an abysmal .225 and have a .564 OPS against him collectively. 

Against the Nats, he is 8-4 lifetime with a 2.61 ERA in 20 starts, and this spring deGrom has picked up right where he left off with a 0.66 ERA in four starts. My confidence level in him couldn't be any higher. My wallet is jumping in my pocket telling me to hammer this as we speak. I hope to someday buy a boat called the S.S. deNRFI with all my winnings from him this year.

Pitted against the great one is another superstar in the aging Mad Max Scherzer, 36. In 2020, he was solid in the first inning with a 3.75 ERA in 12 starts. Lifetime in the first inning, Scherzer sports a 3.35 ERA in 368 starts. 

It's not often you get two proven NRFI pitchers in one matchup. I'm staking my money and reputation on deNRFI, and it's a quick ride to the first Hermo Hammer Lock win of the season.


Other Stats to Know


  • Career vs. Nationals: 8-4, 2.61 ERA in 20 starts
  • Career at Nationals Ballpark: 7-1, 2.80 ERA in 11 starts



  • Career vs. Mets: 2.70 ERA in 23 starts
  • Career at Nationals Ballpark: 35-24, 3.05 ERA in 87 starts


2-Unit Play: Los Angeles Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw) at Colorado Rockies (German Marquez) +132

Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

Clayton Kershaw was lights out last year in the first inning, posting a 0.90 ERA in 10 starts, lowering his lifetime first-inning ERA to an impressive 2.67. He has been a NRFI machine his entire career. Coors Field may not be an NRFI-friendly stadium, but in Kershaw's 23 career starts at Coors, he has only given up a first-inning run four times. His NRFI record at the worst NRFI stadium in the country is 19-4. I will take that any day.

On the other side, we get Rockies ace German Marquez. Last year in 13 starts, he produced an impressive 3.46 ERA in the first inning. He also sports a 2.54 ERA against the Dodgers, including an NRFI cash in his lone start vs. Los Angeles in 2020. The first five batters in the scary Dodgers lineup are just 11-for-51 (.215) with a .640 OPS against Marquez. Even though Kershaw is the star here, give German props for having an ERA under four in the first inning while pitching roughly half his games at Coors last year.

This would've been the NRFI of the day if it weren't for Coors Field. The Rockies lineup got weaker with the Nolan Arenado trade, and both pitchers performed well last year, combining to go 18-5 in NRFIs (Kershaw 9-1, Marquez 9-4). Gotta love our chances. 


Other Stats to Know


  • Average batters faced in first inning: 3.9 career, 3.8 in 2020



  • Average batters faced in first inning: 4.5 career, 4.15 in 2020


2-Unit Play: Minnesota Twins (Kenta Maeda) at Milwaukee Brewers (Brandon Woodruff) -143

We get one of the worst scoring offenses in the first inning from 2020 in the Brewers (30th, 0.25 runs/game in first inning,) with NRFI ace Brandon Woodruff (11-2 in NRFIs last year) starting. The Twins will send ace Kenta Maeda to the mound after he logged eight clean first innings in 11 2020 starts. Still, the Twins loved to score runs in the initial frame, hence why Maeda's NRFI record last season was only 6-5.

Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

That's where Woodruff should come into play. In this matchup last year, he had no problem dealing with the Twins, and the NRFI cashed. I'm more worried about the Brew Crew's bats. The top five projected hitters in the lineup have gotten to Maeda for .303 batting average.

But with Maeda having such a hot spring training (0.49 ERA in five starts), I'm hoping to see a carryover into at least the first inning. The best part about NRFIs is that all we care about is the first inning. If Maeda cruises and Woodruff picks up where he left off? We win. 


Other Stats to Know


  • First-inning ERA: 2.87 ERA, 0.69 last year
  • Average batters faced in first inning: 4.04 career, 3.69 in 2020



  1. First-inning ERA: 4.66 ERA, 2.45 last year
  2. Average batters faced in first inning: 4.2 career, 3.81 in 2020


All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and Daily Baseball DataFollow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook @TroyHermo.


If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, crisis counseling and referral services can be accessed by calling 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537) (IL).

Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER (NJ/WV/PA), 1-800-9-WITH-IT (IN), 1-800-522-4700 (CO), 1-800-BETS OFF (IA), or call or text the TN REDLINE: 800-889-9789 (TN).

21+. NJ/PA/WV/IN/IA/CO/IL/TN only. In partnership with Meadows Racetrack & Casino. Eligibility restrictions apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.