Cleveland Guardians @ Houston Astros Game Preview and Pick: Target the NRFI

It did not take long for the Astros to bounce back from their series loss to the Rays, as they were able to open their series with the Guardians on a high note. With a chance to secure the series tonight with a win, we’ll preview the game before going over why I’ll be targeting the run-first-inning market for my play.

Game Preview

The Astros' ability to bring pitchers up from their farm system and have them play significant factors in playoff races is highly impressive. The latest addition to that long line of farm system arms is J.P France, who took the ball last night and gave his team seven innings while allowing just two earned runs. France minimized damage all game and allowed the big bats of Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker to supply him with run support in the 7-3 win.

Another arm that Houston has been able to develop into a true front-end starter, Framber Valdez, will be taking the mound tonight for the team in what will be his 21st start this season. However, the left-hander has not been pitching as that front-end starter as of late, as he has allowed four or more runs in four of his last five starts, including six in 3.2 innings during his more recent outing.

Valdez will look to get back on track tonight against a Guardians lineup that outhit the Astros last night despite their losing effort. Cleveland finished the game with nine hits, including RBIs from Steven Kwan, Bo Naylor, and Myles Straw, but overall they would finish the game with nine strikeouts and 17 runners left on base.

Houston isn’t the only team that can develop young arms from their system, as the Guardians have also made a name for themselves for drafting and developing quality arms. One of the young arms the Cleveland faithful are most excited about is Gavin Williams, and he’ll get the ball tonight for his 8th big league start. In the 37.7 innings, the right-hander has thrown up to this point, he has pitched to a 3.35 ERA and is fresh off an outing in which he put up four scoreless innings.

Pick for the Game

The NRFI for this game is currently priced at (-113), and I’ll be taking that as my play for this one. Over the past ten games, the NRFI is 7-3 in Guardians games, and so far in his young career, Gavin Williams has been able to come out in the first inning and hold teams at bay. In seven first innings, Williams has allowed just one earned run, which gives him a 1.29 first-inning ERA and a .226 batting average against the first time through the order.

Framber Valdez has also kept teams off the board in the first inning, even with his recent stretch of bad starts. In 20 first innings, Valdez has allowed just two earned runs this season which gives him a first-inning ERA of .90. The lefty has been flat-out dominant the first time a lineup goes through the order as he has a 2.84 xFIP and .178 batting average against the first time through.

His struggles recently should not affect him much early in tonight's game, especially since the Guardians lineup ranks 22nd in OPS, wOBA, and wRC+ against left-handed pitching on the road over the last month. There might have been ten runs scored last night, but I don’t see either team being able to put a run on the board in the first tonight.


  • No Run First Inning (-113)

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