Texas Rangers: ALCS Preview Against the Houston Astros

By: Nicholas Gilanfar

With a 3-0 ALDS series sweep against the Baltimore Orioles, the Rangers find themselves in territory where they have not reached since 2011, the ALCS. The Rangers are back to their mid-season form as they have yet to drop a game in the playoffs going 5-0. Coming up next are the defending world series champions, 2023 AL West Champions as well as the Rangers kryptonite the Houston Astros.

Houston’s 2023 ALCS berth will mark their seventh consecutive year in the series making the world series four out of the previous six appearances and winning two of them, one in 2017 and one in 2022. Now with the cross-state rivalry coming into fruition in the ALCS, this will mark the first playoff series between the two franchises in MLB history as Houston was formally in the national league prior to their dominant seven-year stretch.

The upcoming series between Texas and Houston will be for all the marbles as the winner will secure a spot on the fall classic and become American League Champions. Houston has won the last two pennants so it will be interesting to see what Ranger team will show up. The winner of the seven-game series will face the winner of the NLCS featuring the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Philadelphia Phillies in the world series.

Texas Rangers vs. Houston Astros Schedule

Sunday, October 15 @ Houston Astros.  7:15 PM (CST)

Monday, October 16 @ Houston Astros.   3:37 PM (CST)

Wednesday, October 18 vs. Houston Astros.  7:03 PM (CST)

Thursday, October 19 vs. Houston Astros.  7:03 PM (CST)

Friday, October 20 vs. Houston Astros. 4:07 PM (CST) (If Necessary)

Sunday, October 22 @ Houston Astros. 7:03 PM (CST) (If Necessary)

Monday, October 23 @ Houston Astros. 7:03 PM (CST) (If Necessary)

Rangers vs. Astros Head-to-Head in 2023

With both teams residing in the AL West, the cross-time rivals saw each other on four separate occasions playing a total of 13 games in those four series. The season series was lopsided to say the least as Texas was 4-9 against Houston in 2023 dropping three out of the four series.

The first series took place early in April as Houston started off slow as usual as the Rangers were surging coming off an opening weekend sweep against the 2022 National League Champions Philadelphia Phillies. The opening series between Texas and Houston took place in Houston as the Rangers were able to grab two out of the three games putting the league on notice as playoff and division hopefuls.

After a solid opening series win, it was evident that Houston found their groove in the remaining three series winning the next seven out of nine games against Texas. The second series between the two resulted in Houston winning three of four which was prior to the trade deadline. As for the next two series, the Rangers were hurt missing many players including Jonah Heim, Josh Jung, Adolis Garcia, Nthan Eovaldi and Corey Seager for bits of both series.

Although the head-to-head record between the two teams is rather defining this will be the first series between the two teams that they are both fully healthy post trade deadline along with Texas Rangers #1 prospect and playoff standout Evan Carter awaiting his debut in the cross-town battle.

Texas Rangers Scouting Report

As the Rangers approach their first ALCS since 2011, the road takenwas bumpy at times prior to playoff success. In early September the Rangers playoff chances were dwindling as well as key players getting hurt. Now the Rangers are four wins away from the pennant, but it will be a challenge to reach that mountain top against Houston. Since 2017, the two franchises were on different paths as Houston were contenders and Texas was in rebuild mode. Since then, the Rangers hold a record of 39-79 against Houston and have had a hard time figuring out the club, even this year as a contender.

Hopefully past trends are behind them as this has now become high stakes for both teams as stapling themselves as “The team of Texas”. In the ALDS the Rangers punished Baltimore pitching forcing 13 runs on their starting rotation in only a combined eight innings. Pitching has also been spectacular as it is likely the Rangers will be gaining some reinforcements in Max Scherzer and Jon Gray for the ALCS.

Texas Rangers Projected Starting Rotation

Jordan Montgomery (Game one)

Nathan Eovaldi (Game two)

Max Scherzer (if healthy) or Andrew Heaney (Game three)

Earlier this week, it has been announced that the Rangers will start over in the rotation amidst the four-day break and roll out Jordan Montgomery for game one and Nathan Eovaldi in game two. As for the game three starter, it is likely Max Scherzer will be returning from the IL after throwing a solid bullpen on Friday. If he is unable to make it back for game three, the viable option is likely to roll out Andrew Heaney who pitched in game one of the ALDS pitching 3.2 innings letting up two hits and a run.

Montgomery will be slated for game one looking to make his third appearance in the playoffs as he has a record of 1-0 posting an ERA of 3.27. He has let up a total of five runs with all of them being against Baltimore but has still shown his ability to send batters packing and pitch in high leverage situations. Montgomery was a trade deadline acquisition but has fit into the Rangers starting rotation nicely as he filled the void for our injured rotation starting the playoffs.

Eovaldi will be on the bump for game two after a phenomenal showing in the ALDS game three clincher, pitching seven innings while letting up only one run. Eovaldi has been the rotation’s heartbeat for the entirety of the season getting the all-star nod as well as serving as a viable ace until he was injured for a month with forearm tightness. When returning from injury, there were concerns that he wouldn’t achieve all-star form again but proved the doubters wrong and came back to his usual ways at the perfect time.

The decision for the game’s three starters will be something to pay attention to as there are many possible outcomes. Prior to the postseason both Max Scherzer and Jon Gray were forced onto the IL and were both main stays in the rotation. In light of recent developments, they have both recently thrown live bullpen sessions as they are likely to get the nod onto the ALCS roster. If so, it is almost positive that Scherzer will start game three and roll Jon Gray out there for game four and tandem with either Andrew Heaney, Dane Dunning, or Martin Perez who are also starters that have been serving as relivers as of late.

Houston Astros Scouting Report

The Houston Astros have been consistently winning since their world series title* in 2017 as this year’s ALCS berth will mark the club’s seventh consecutive time in a row. Towards the last month of the season, the battle of the AL West was a dog fight as Texas, Houston, and Seattle were all in the running. Texas had the upper edge as they were atop the division for the majority of the season but because of the late season downfall, Houston ended up taking the division away cementing their sixth AL West title in ten years. The defending world series champs are coming off a 3-1 series defeat against the Minnesota Twins in the ALDS. They look to continue the pace against the Rangers as they dominated the last series in September outscoring them 39-10. 

The Astros are known for their potent offensive lineup featuring the likes of 2B Jose Altuve, OF Kyle Tucker, DH Yordan Alvarez, and 3B Alex Bregman. Through four games so far in the playoffs they have already hit ten homeruns highlighted by DH Yordan Alvarez four home runs and three home runs from Jose Abreu who was their prime free agent signing prior to the season. It is important that the Rangers attack this lineup fast and early because we have seen time and time again that the Astros batting order can shift the game’s momentum with the snap of a finger.

Houston Astros Projected Starting Rotation

Justin Verlander (Game 1)

Framber Valdez (Game 2)

It has been announced that Justin Verlander will be slated as the game one starter as he last pitched in game one of the ALDS pitching six scoreless innings. Justin Verlander is coming off a CY Young winning year at 39 years old in 2022 for Houston. After the season, Verlander was a free agent and elected to sign with the New York Mets on a two year 86-million-dollar deal. Although Verlander was still dynamic in New York, an underwhelming Mets team was forced to move off some major contracts which led Verlander right back to Houston via a trade deadline deal. Verlander is a seasoned vet when it comes to October baseball as he has thrown over 230 innings posting a 17-11 record and an ERA of 3.54.

Framber Valdez will get the ball for game two as he is coming off a rough outing in game two of the ALDS as he pitched 4.1 innings and let up five runs. Valdez is a dynamic left-handed pitcher who is in his prime and finished the 2023 season with a record of 12-11 and a 3.45 ERA. Although Valdez is noted as a top pitcher in the MLB, when he is off, he takes it out on the other team’s and lets his emotions out which is where an opposing team would want him. But when he is on, he is locked in until the moment the ball is out of his hands.

The opening game will take place on Sunday October 14 as the Rangers are four wins away from their third American League pennant in franchise history.

Featured Image via Karren Warren/Houston Chronicle

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