It’s a Lone Star State showdown for the American League crown, as the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros meet in the ALCS of the 2023 MLB playoffs. Game 1 is set for Sunday, Oct. 15, with first pitch from Minute Maid Park at 8:15 p.m. ET.
Texas seemed to be entering October in a tailspin, losing the AL West to Houston on the final weekend of the regular season and losing Max Scherzer and Jon Gray to injury. But the Rangers have rebounded in a big way over the past couple of weeks: Texas has yet to lose a game this postseason, first sweeping the Tampa Bay Rays in the Wild Card round and then dominating the top-seeded Baltimore Orioles in the ALDS. Jordan Montgomery and Nathan Eovaldi have been sensational atop the Texas rotation, while a lineup that seemed to be fading a bit as the summer went on has gotten back to its early record-setting form.
The Astros stole the division and the No. 2 seed from their in-state rivals on the season’s final day, their sixth AL West crown in the last seven years. It was a bumpier ride than we’ve grown accustomed to, with injuries hitting both the rotation (Luis Garcia, Lance McCullers Jr., Jose Urquidy) and lineup (Jose Altuve, Yordan Alvarez, Michael Brantley) hard at various points. But Houston found enough pitching depth — a deadline deal for Justin Verlander sure didn’t hurt — and its foundational stars are now healthy and clicking at the top of the order. The Astros were given a brief scare by the Twins in the ALDS, losing Game 2, but they rebounded with consecutive wins in Minnesota to punch their ticket to a seventh straight ALCS.
Let’s go over odds to win the series on DraftKings Sportsbook.
Rangers vs. Astros odds
The Astros enter this series as -140 favorites to claim the AL pennant, with the Rangers as +120 underdogs.
Houston is a deserved favorite here: Not only did they eventually track down Texas in the regular season, but they went 9-4 in the season series against the Rangers this year — and many of those nine wins weren’t particularly close. The Astros scored 83 runs in those nine wins, including a whopping 39 over a three-game sweep in September that featured games started by Eovaldi and Scherzer. Not even the Twins’ impressive staff could keep Houston’s lineup in check, and despite Eovaldi and Montgomery’s efforts so far this postseason, it remains to be seen whether the Rangers have the pitching depth to survive a seven-game series. The potential returns of Scherzer and Gray should help, but neither of them are built up to a normal starter’s workload, and even if they can go they’ll likely have to piggyback with guys like Andrew Heaney or Martin Perez.
Of course, the back-end of the Astros rotation is also a bit shaky, a lack of depth that was sufficiently masked in a best-of-five series. A seven-game series, however, might make Houston have to rely a bit more on young righties Hunter Brown and J.P. France, each of whom were shaky down the stretch. Still, given Cristian Javier’s improving form — and his 14-inning postseason scoreless streak — you have to give the edge to the Astros’ big three of Javier, Verlander and Framber Valdez. And really, that’s why I’m backing Houston here: These are two offenses that can wear you out, and I think the reigning world champs have a bit more in the rotation and bullpen to withstand what should be a long series. There’s also the intangible factor: At this point, the Astros just feel inevitable, like the big bad in a slasher movie; they aren’t dead until the final out is recorded, and they just find ways to win this time of year. Texas’ offense should make this awfully competitive, but in the end I think Houston outscores them.
Prediction: Astros -140