The Houston Astros and Texas Rangers are making history in this MLB Playoff Series. It’s the first time two teams from the same state have faced each other in the League Championship Series round.
The Astros are favorites, as they should be. The defending World Series champions make their seventh consecutive appearance in the ALCS, a record. Houston is seeking to win a third straight pennant. If they can, it will match a feat last accomplished by the Yankees in 2000.
To halt the Lone Star Dynasty, the Rangers will need to defy oddsmakers, who have them as underdogs (+145 from Caesars) in spite of winning as many games as Houston in the regular season. The Rangers are 5-0 in these playoffs, having outscored their opponents by a whopping margin of 32-12. But, Houston has been their foil, beating them up to the tune of a .725 winning percentage in head-to-head meetings the last three seasons.
Series Schedule, TV coverage of ALCS
Joe Davis and John Smoltz, along with Ken Rosenthal and Tom Verducci, will cover the ALCS for Fox Sports. You’ll have to stomach insufferable Álex Rodríguez, incomprehensible David Ortiz, and the yawn-inspiring Derek Jeter in the pregame coverage, but we suggest a heavy reliance on the MUTE button during that portion of the telecast.
- Game 1: Rangers at Astros, Oct. 15, 8:15 PM ET, on FOX
- Game 2: Rangers at Astros, Oct. 16, 4:37 PM ET, on FOX/FS1
- Game 3: Astros at Rangers, Oct. 18, 8:03 PM ET on FS1
- Game 4: Astros at Rangers, Oct. 19, 8:03 PM ET on FS1
- Game 5:* Astros at Rangers, Oct. 20, 7:07 PM ET on FS1
- Game 6:* Rangers at Astros, Oct. 22, 8:03 PM ET on FS1
- Game 7:* Rangers at Astros, Oct. 23, 8:03 PM ET, on FOX/FS1
The Astros and Rangers played each other 13 times in the 2023 season. Houston won the series, 9-4. The Astros are 37-14 against the Rangers in the last three seasons, dating back to 2021.
BetMGM Series Winner Odds: Orioles -120 | Rangers +100
Houston Astros Overview
The Astros don’t have one way to beat you. Their lineup is loaded with bats that could scare the smile off Jojo Siwa’s face. Not since the Big Red Machine of the 1970s has one team had such a depth of offensive weapons. It starts with Yordan Alvarez, who hit four home runs in the four-game series win in the NLDS. Lookout! Jose Abreu hit three dingers with eight RBI. If those bats don’t get you, Kyle Tucker, Michael Brantley, Alex Bregman, Chas McCormick, and Jose Altuve probably will.
This experienced group is led by Justin Verlander, and followed by Cristian Javier (23 K’s and only two hits allowed in 16 1/3 IP as a starter in the postseason), Framber Valdez, and Jose Urquidy.
Baker used seven relievers in the Division Series. That group accounted for 15 of the 36 innings (42%). It’s an experienced bunch: Ryan Pressly, Ryne Stanek, Bryan Abreu, and Hunter Brown leading the way. The swing-and-miss capability of the relief corps is crucial for the Astros when they need to escape runners-on situations.
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Texas Rangers Overview
The Rangers essentially pounded the Orioles into submission. The lineup is led by Corey Seager, Adolis Garcia, and Marcus Semien. But sneaky-good guys like Evan Carter, Mitch Garver, and Josh Jung can do damage too. The worry is that the Rangers will live by the home run, and if that dries up, crickets will replace runs on the bases.
This has been the October that Nathan Eovaldi has served notice that he too can be a postseason stud. The veteran righthander has allowed only two runs in 13 2/3 innings, with 15 K’s. Texas will need him to eat innings, because Dane Dunning and Jordan Montgomery are 3-4 inning guys. If Houston forces the Texas 2-4 starters to throw loads of pitches, they can prompt Bruce Bochy to go to the bullpen, which so far has pitched above its head this postseason in five games.
Want an example of how brilliant Bochy is? The crusty old manager with the bad knees has coaxed excellent performances this October from a bullpen that ranked 10th in the AL in ERA and 12th in K-to-BB ratio. At some point though, how comfortable will this team be having José Leclerc pitch important innings late in games? The closer role seems to be in the hands of Leclerc or maybe Aroldis Chapman, who, like the Old Grey Mare, “ain’t what he used to be.”
Pitching Matchup for Game 1
TBD vs. Justin Verlander (2.83 ERA, 168 K in 168.2 IP in regular season)
We know for sure that Houston will have its resident ace and future Hall of Famer Verlander on the hill for Game 1. Verlander will be making his record 13th start in Game 1 of a postseason game. His teams have gone 8-4 in the previous outings in that situation. JV has thrown the most innings and struck out the most batters in PS history. He can rely on muscle memory: he’s done this for the Astros before, posting a 10-6 record in the postseason for Houston.
The Rangers will likely make an announcement on a starter by Saturday. It could be Nathan Eovaldi, who has the best PS résumé this fall for Texas. The Game 3 ALDS starter would have a full four-days rest if Bruce Bochy taps him to start in Game 1 against Verlander. Other options are Dane Dunning and Jordan Montgomery. It may even be possible that we could see a dream matchup of Verlander vs. Max Scherzer, who is reportedly throwing again after a strain to a muscle in his golden shoulder. Scherzer and Verlander have never squared off in the postseason and were actually teammates in spring training on the Mets. Now they serve as hired guns in a Texas-style baseball standoff. It’s also quite possible that if Mad Max is available for the ALCS, Bochy may use him as a bullpen option.
Rangers vs. Astros Prediction
Until someone topples the king, we say “Long live the King!” The Astros are etching their place in baseball history, and seem to have the impact players to vanquish opponents at every turn. As favorites to win the World Series (+180), we find it difficult to bet against Dusty Baker & Co. We say, Astros in 5 games.
Game 1 Pick: Verlander may struggle in one inning, but if the Rangers don’t put several runs up against the veteran ace, he’ll get into a groove and mow them down. Bet Astros on the moneyline.