The American League Championship Series is not just for the right to go to the World Series but also a battle for the state of Texas as the Houston Astros play host to the Texas Rangers in Game 1 on Sunday.
Texas Rangers vs. Houston Astros (-142, 9)
The Game 1 pitching start for the Rangers goes to Jordan Montgomery, who has allowed one or zero runs in five of his past six starts, and since joining the Rangers at the trade deadline, has a 2.86 ERA between the regular season and postseason.
Montgomery looks to contain an Astros offense that does a good job of not striking out, owning the third-lowest strikeout percentage per at-bat in baseball. Montgomery relies on soft contact to begin with, however, getting just 7.4 strikeouts per nine innings in his 13 starts with the Rangers.
Additionally, the ballpark factors in Houston have suppressed the offense all season long. Despite the Astros leading the American League in runs per game since June 1, the team averaged just under 4.5 runs per game at home during the regular season compared to over 5.7 runs per game on the road. The Astros posted the 14th-best home run per at-bay rate at home and the second-best home run per at-bat rate on the road.
On the pitching side of things for Houston, Justin Verlander gets the start and is no stranger to the ALCS, recording a 3.01 ERA with 10 strikeouts and two walks per nine innings in his 12 career ALCS starts.
Since being traded to the Astros from the New York Mets at the trade deadline, Verlander has a 3.04 ERA between the regular season and postseason with 8.4 strikeouts to 2.1 walks per nine innings.
The Rangers offense is the opposite of the Astros as they led the American League in runs per game this season with a league-leading 6.0 runs per game at home compared to just under five runs per game on the road.
While the Rangers ranked just 24th in the league in bullpen ERA during the regular season, the bullpen has posted a 2.16 ERA in the playoffs while the Astros’ 3.60 bullpen ERA this postseason is almost the same as their 3.55 ERA from the regular season, which ranked sixth among MLB teams.
With Verlander’s track record of success and the overall hitting environment coupled with these teams’ stark home and road run-scoring splits, this series will begin with the pitchers dominating Game 1.
The Play: Rangers vs. Astros Under 9