The Rangers and Astros start the ALCS on Sunday, as the two divisional and in-state rivals meet for the first time in the postseason. Not only is this the first time these two teams have faced off in the playoffs, but it is the first time ever that the LCS features two teams from the same state.
During the regular season, these two teams faced off 13 times with the Astros going 9-4, including winning seven of their last eight head-to-head matchups. Houston memorably swept Texas in their most recent series by a combined score of 39-10. Even though that series was on the road, the Astros scored at least 12 runs in every game, and that sweep helped propel them to eventually catch the Rangers and claim the division title after Texas held the lead for 159 days of the season.
Despite stumbling to the finish line, the Rangers have looked red-hot during the postseason, quickly dispatching the Blue Jays and Orioles. They’ll give the ball to lefty Jordan Montgomery in Game 1, and he’ll be opposed by Justin Verlander, who returned to the Astros at the trade deadline after starting the season with the Mets. This will be Houston’s record-setting seventh straight ALCS appearance as they look to defend their World Series crown from last season.
Who will jump out to the early series lead and how should you build your Showdown lineup on DraftKings? Let’s break it down.
Set your DraftKings Showdown lineups here: MLB Showdown $60K Relay Throw [$20K to 1st] (TEX vs HOU)
Yordan Alvarez ($14,100 CP) - Even in a lefty-lefty matchup, I’m ready to back Alvarez against Montgomery. During the regular season, Alvarez actually posted a higher batting average against lefties than righties and Montgomery gave up a higher batting average to lefties than righties. So the matchup definitely isn’t one to avoid just because of the norms. Since some people will, it actually becomes a nice leverage spot to roll with Alvarez, who is coming off a great ALCS and has come up huge in clutch moments for the Astros throughout the past two postseasons.
Against the Twins in Houston’s last series, Alvarez smashed four homers and went 7-for-16 (.438) with two doubles, six RBI and an average of over 20 DKFP per game. While that pace is probably unsustainable, he has proven in several stretches that he can stay locked in at the plate and totally carry the offense. He had a great postseason run last year as well and now has a .377 postseason WOBA in his 51 career postseason games. Air Yordan has proven he can step up to the plate and deliver when the games matter most, and I think he’ll stay locked in against Montgomery in Game 1.
Justin Verlander ($17,400 CP) - Of the two starting pitchers, Verlander is by far the more experienced option and comes with a host of postseason success. He built on that success with six shutout innings against the Twins to get the win in Game 1 of the ALCS, which was his third straight start with over 22 DKFP (over 33 DKFP as Captain). He seems to have moved past his struggles from earlier this season and went 5-2 with a 2.88 ERA and 3.92 FIP in his final eight starts of the regular season. He did face the Rangers during that stretch and gave up just one earned run on four hits in seven innings to pick up a win in Arlington. Of the two starting pitching options, he’s definitely the safer play and comes with the higher ceiling. The Rangers lineup has been hot in the postseason, but they haven’t faced anyone like Verlander.
Corey Seager ($9,200) - The Orioles basically decided that Seager wasn’t going to beat them in the ALCS no matter what. They issued nine free passes to Seager, who finished the three-game series just 2-for-6 (.333) with four runs scored, a home run and an average of 13.7 DKFP per game. He had multiple hits in each of the Rangers’ two wins over the Rays, going 4-for-8 (.500) with a total of 30 DKFP in those two games. Seager carried the Dodgers to the World Series in 2020, and he looks ready to repeat that performance if the Astros decide to pitch to him. Seager is 5-for-20 with a home run against Verlander in the regular season, and he also hit a memorable homer off Verlander in the 2017 World Series.
Jose Abreu ($7,000) - Abreu was one of the Astros’ big acquisitions coming into the season, but things couldn’t have started much worse for the veteran. He started the year hitting just .214 with no homers over his first 50 games. The team stuck with him, though, and he eventually turned things around and finished with 18 home runs, seven of which came in the final month of the season. He carried over that power surge into the postseason and hit three homers in the final two games against the Twins. He went 5-for-16 (.313) with eight RBI and an average of 15 DKFP per game in the ALCS, but he still comes pretty affordably as the Astros’ fifth-highest-priced hitter. After the All-Star break, Abreu had a .313 ISO and .365 wOBA against left-handed pitchers, including six home runs. He and Alvarez are a great power stack to build around from Houston’s lineup in Game 1.
Loedy Taveras ($5,000) - Taveras is a great value that can help you have the salary to spend in other spots and also still bring a high ceiling. The 25-year-old hit .266 with 14 homers and 14 stolen bases on the season, and he finished the season strong with a .310 batting average, two homers, three stolen bases and a .357 wOBA in his 26 games in September. In the playoffs, Taveras has posted double-digit DKFP in three of his five games, going 5-for-19 (.263) with three walks and four runs scored. Batting ninth means he is in front of the big hitters in the Rangers’ lineup, so if he gets on base, he brings good run production potential.
José Altuve ($9,000) - I use Altuve a lot in my regular season targets since he brings good production at 2B, where there aren’t as many elite options. In Showdown format, though, positional scarcity doesn’t help him at all. He started the ALCS with a home run but then went just 3-for-16 (.188) the rest of the series with no stolen bases and no extra-base hits. Altuve’s splits from this season strongly favor him vs. right-handed pitchers and on the road, but this matchup is against a left-handed pitcher and at home. He’s a proven postseason producer, but there are a host of other options around this salary that I like better because they bring better form and potential value into Game 1 than Altuve.
Set your DraftKings Showdown lineups here: MLB Showdown $80K Relay Throw [$20K to 1st]
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and customer (my username is z.thompson) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skill and judgment in building lineups. I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.