We’ve officially come down to the wire, as the best of seven series have started in this year’s MLB playoffs, and one team is eight wins away from securing a World Series title. That being said, one team specifically in the State of Texas is four wins away from earning an American League pennant, so let’s dig into this game one matchup between the Rangers and Astros, where my prediction is for the Astros to cover a spread of 1.5 runs.
Rangers Vs. Astros Prediction
Just by taking the field this Sunday, the Astros and Rangers will be making history, as the first two teams from one state to meet in a League Championship Series. Both will hope to make history in a more concrete way, that is to say by finding on-field success that would be unprecedented in its own way no matter who wins.
If the defending champion Astros are able to get the job done and win the World Series, they’ll be the first team since the 2000 Yankees to successfully defend a title, marking a truly remarkable accomplishment in this era where parity has been the rule. The Astros have already done plenty to buck that trend, as this is their seventh consecutive ALCS appearance, and it’s worth noting that they won four of the previous six despite running up against some pretty loaded Yankees squads. This is easily the most experienced postseason squad of the current era, and there’s no chance this moment will be too big for them.
Conversely, the Rangers would be looking to enter the history books by etching their name in the list of World Series champions; since their founding in 1961, they’ve never lifted the trophy. Their only two appearances in the fall classic were in 2010 and ‘11, both of course losses, and those campaigns also mark Texas’s last appearances in the ALCS. This is a young, upstart team looking to take down the defending champs, as Texas jumped up from 68 wins a year ago to 90 this season, and will hope to take their meteoric rise to the highest level.
The Astros also won 90 games in what was a down year by their lofty standards, so this is a great chance for these two AL West foes to settle the score for once and for all. Houston did win the regular season series handily, by a score of nine wins to four, which granted them the division title and a first round bye.
Houston will be tossing Justin Verlander, one of the most accomplished postseason arms in recent memory. It’s a tale as old as time, Verlander in the playoffs with Houston, but it almost didn’t happen this year; it took a midseason trade from the Mets to reunite him with his old teammates. He was excellent in his one postseason start so far, in which he tossed six shutout innings in a big win.
He’ll be facing Jordan Montgomery, who had a magnificent first start of the postseason as he threw seven scoreless innings against the Rays, but he got hit pretty hard last time out, surrendering five total runs in four innings of work in what ended up being a marathon win for Texas.
After sweeps of favored AL East foes in the first two rounds, the Rangers are 5-0 in these playoffs, but the undefeated streak ends now. Ultimately, Houston’s experience and Verlander’s historic postseason greatness will shine through, and the value of Montgomery’s general dominance over left handers will be diluted by the excellence of Houston’s main left-handed bats against fellow southpaws.
Rangers Vs. Astros Prediction: Astros -1.5 (+145)
Rangers Vs. Astros Odds
The Astros are -140 favorites, but +145 to cover a spread of -1.5; the Rangers are +115 and -175 on the other side of each line, respectively. For a run total of 8.5, the over is slightly favored at -120 while you can grab the under at even money.
Rangers Vs. Astros Key Matchups
It’s tough to get to Verlander, but Montgomery has been fantastic too this season; let’s see how these absolutely loaded lineups can find some production
Jordan Montgomery vs. Astros Lefties
The lefty Montgomery is so effective against left-handed bats that he rarely faces them; they get platooned out of the lineup altogether in many of his starts. However, the Astros aren’t likely to do that, as two of the very best bats in the heart of their lineup are left-handed.
One of those hitters is Yordan Alvarez, who owned nearly a .900 OPS against lefties this year, and smacked a remarkable four homers in the four-game ALDS against the Twins. The other key one is Kyle Tucker, a second-time All Star and the AL RBI leader in 2023, who actually did his best work against left-handers, with an OPS of .934 https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/split.fcgi?id=tuckeky01&year=2023&t=b against southpaws. Conversely, contact bat Michael Brantley actually does struggle against lefties, and might miss the lineup in this one.
Justin Verlander vs. Contact Bats
After leading the American League in both ERA and WHIP last year, Verlander’s baserunners allowed and average quality of contact numbers https://baseballsavant.mlb.com/savant-player/justin-verlander-434378?stats=statcast-r-pitching-mlb have taken a bit of a spike this season, giving hitters a glimmer of hope against the nearly-unstoppable ace.
Corey Seager would likely be the AL MVP in a World without Shohei Ohtani, as he hit .327 in the regular season and earned a mark of .429 in the ALDS. Late season call-up Evan Carter hit over .300 in his short regular season stint, and is level with Seager so far in the playoffs, and rookie sensation Josh Jung has been raking as well. Texas has a star lineup, but ultimately, there are no real holes in Verlander’s game, which is a huge reason why I have the Astros covering the -1.5 spread in my Rangers vs. Astros prediction.
Rangers Vs. Astros Starting Lineups
Rangers Starting Lineup
2B Marcus Semien R
SS Corey Seager L
DH Mitch Garver R
RF Adolis Garcia R
LF Evan Carter L
C Jonah Heim S
1B Nate Lowe L
3B Josh Jung R
CF Leody Taveras S
Astros Starting Lineup
2B Jose Altuve R
3B Alex Bregman R
DH Yordan Alvarez L
RF Kyle Tucker L
1B Jose Abreu R
LF Michael Brantley L
LF Chas McCormick R
SS Jeremy Pena R
C Martin Maldonado R