For a seventh consecutive season, the Astros will partake in the American League Championship Series. The Astros playing for a pennant is as much October tradition as trick-or-treating and pumpkin pie.
While Houston has been an ALCS staple in recent history, their opponents haven’t been. The Texas Rangers will be playing for a pennant for the first time since 2012.
This will be the first time the division rivals have ever squared off in a playoff series. However, there’s no shortage of bad blood between the teams.
Houston dominated the head-to-head matchups in the regular season, winning the season series 9-4, but the Rangers have been on another level this postseason, going 5-0 while outscoring the opposition 32-12.
It should be a tightly contested series for the right to represent the AL in the World Series, and for in-state bragging rights.
Here are the five biggest factors that will determine the ALCS.
As we’ve mentioned before, elite defense has been a staple for the Astros during their playoff run. This year, not so much. The Astros 14 defensive runs saved this year were good for 17th in the MLB.
This is a far cry from their standard. No other year have they finished lower than 4th since 2018. Now, much of their regression can be attributed to the regular season DRS regression of Kyle Tucker and Jeremy Peña, but Tucker was much better in the second half and Peña has been a defensive stalwart in the postseason.
The Rangers defense is better on paper, finishing seventh in the league in DRS.
In a battle between such evenly matched teams, a costly error or a highlight reel defensive play could be all the difference in who goes home and who advances.