The Texas Rangers have shocked the World all season, and they continued to do so with a massive game one win on the road against the defending champion Houston Astros. With one more game in Houston before the series heads North up Interstate 45 to the Dallas area, the Rangers could be going home with a commanding 2-0 lead, or the Astros could tie things up and be right back in it, making this a pivotal second game. Let’s take a look at the odds and key matchups for game two, where my prediction is an Astros win.
Rangers vs. Astros Prediction
This charmed season for the Texas Rangers just keeps on going, as they pulled off two impressive feats in game one of the ALCS in Houston; they jumped on the legendary Justin Verlander early, with runs in the second and fifth innings, and even more impressively, they secured a postseason shutout of the defending champs in Minute Maid Park. Jordan Montgomery was the star as he stymied Houston for 6.1 innings as he continued an excellent postseason, while the bullpen finished the job off, as Aroldis Chapman began to exorcize some demons associated with past performances in the building.
The Astros offense was absolutely baffled by Montgomery and co. as key stars José Altuve, Yordan Álvarez, and Kyle Tucker combined to go 0-11 with just one walk. They’ll need to do much more in game two, but the task isn’t getting any easier with Nathan Eovaldi hitting the mound for Texas, in the midst of a strong playoff run so far. He’s had two pretty similar performances against very strong AL East foes, the Rays and Orioles, as he tossed 6.2 and 7.0 innings in those two outings, and allowed just one run in each. Between those two starts, he’s struck out 15 batters and allowed just 11 baserunners, and Houston is easily the toughest lineup he’s seen yet, but they will need to solve the puzzle much more quickly than either of his previous two opponents did.
Eovaldi will be squaring off with another seasoned postseason arm, Framber Valdez. He was one of Houston’s biggest contributors last season, chipping in 19.1 innings of work across a start in the ALCS and two in the World Series. In those outings against the Yankees and Phillies, Valdez allowed just two earned runs, 10 hits, five walks, and struck out nine batters in each game. That being said, his 2023 postseason got off to a much rockier start, as the Twins hung five runs on him in just over four innings of work. He’s a true pro and has every ability to bounce back, but if he struggles early against the loaded top of the Texas lineup, all bets are off.
This is a very tough one, as the recent track record favors Eovaldi specifically, but also the Rangers, who are a remarkable 6-0 thus far in the playoffs. That being said, Houston won the regular season series by a solid 9-4 margin, and given the past near-decade of MLB postseasons, it’s incredibly hard to imagine Houston going down 2-0 at home to a team from their own division. Valdez’s last performance has the team underpriced, so we’re going to invest in their moneyline and believe in a bounce back performance from both their starting pitcher and the lineup after a brutal last outing for both.
Rangers Vs. Astros Prediction: Astros Moneyline (-120)
Rangers Vs. Astros Odds
The Astros are -120 favorites compared to an even-money line for the Rangers, and the total is set at 8.5 with -110 odds on either side. If you really believe in the Astros and want some more value, they’re +165 to cover a spread of -1.5, while the Rangers are -200 on the other side of that line.
Rangers Vs. Astros Key Matchups
The Rangers superpowered lineup will look to jump on Houston’s Framber Valdez off the heels of a bad outing, while the Astros will try to learn from the mistakes of Nathan Eovaldi’s past two opponents, as he has dominated thus far this postseason.
Nathan Eovaldi vs. Contact Bats
Looking at Eovaldi’s traditional statistics, it’s really not too easy to find any holes in his 2023 performance, but the advanced metrics tell a slightly different story. If we dig into quality of contact, Eovaldi does a fine job limiting barrels and walks, but needs to do better in terms of allowing hard hits, so let’s take a look at some bats that could make him pay in that area.
As always when healthy, Álvarez is going to be the main threat to Eovaldi, he leads the team with a .350 average and four homers this postseason, after putting up figures of .293 and 31 in just 114 games this regular season. Altuve missed time as well but hit .311 in the regular season, and Tucker was the team’s best qualified bat, as he hit .284 over a very solid 157-game campaign. This lineup’s ability to find Eovaldi’s weak spots is a major reason I have the Astros winning in my Rangers vs. Astros prediction.
Framber Valdez vs. Hard hitters
Similarly to Eovaldi, Valdez has good overall numbers but struggles with quality of contact, as he’s third percentile for average exit velocity and sixth for hard hit percentage, so let’s look at some Rangers hitters who can exploit those trends.
MVP candidate Corey Seager 96th percentile in those same two areas, as he batted .327 and slugged .623 this year; the postseason has been more of the same excellence. Marcus Semien was the Rangers’ next-best qualified contact bat, while Adolis Garcia slugged over .500 and came a homer shy of 40 on the year. Lastly, rookies Josh Jung and Evan Carter are raking in these playoffs, each with an OPS well over 1.000 so far.
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 Álvarez 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