MLB: Previewing the 2023 ALCS between the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers

darren cooper
Darren Cooper
MLB Sports News


  • The 2023 American League Championship Series starts Sunday at Minute Maid Park with the Astros hosting the Rangers in Game 1.
  • Houston and Texas finished tied atop the AL West with identical 90-72 records, but the Astros won the division based on a tiebreaker.
  • Houston won 9 of 13 regular season meetings this year and is a slight favorite to advance to the World Series.

It looks like we will settle the American League West Division after all.

The Texas Rangers swept both the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles to reach their first American League Championship Series since 2011 and waiting for them is in-state rival Houston, who beat the Twins 3-1 in the Divisional Series. Houston is in their seventh straight ALCS.

The best-of-seven series starts Sunday in Houston. Michigan sportsbooks will have odds on the length of the series and each game. Right after the Rangers clinched Wednesday night, BetRivers Sportsbook had the Astros as -148 to win the ALCS with the Rangers +120. FanDuel had the Astros -175 and the Rangers +115 to win the pennant.

Let’s get to know the two teams who have never met in the playoffs before – Houston was a National League team until 2013.

The Soaring Defending Champs

That’s right, love ‘em or hate ‘em, the Astros are back again. The reigning World Series champs got off to a rocky start this season, hurt by an injury to star Jose Altuve and inconsistent play from slugger Yordan Alvarez, but roared back to edge the Rangers for the division title on the last day of the season.

Houston made a big move at the trading deadline to re-acquire Justin Verlander from the Mets. He will likely make the start in Game 1 for the Astros. He has 17 career post-season wins, which is second most all-time.

The line-up is still top heavy. Alvarez had four homers in the ALDS against the Twins and Jose Abreu has been hot at the plate. Altuve homered on the first pitch he saw against the Twins. Closer Ryan Pressly has 13 post-season saves.

Home On the Range

This is new ground for the Rangers, who spent big in the off-season to boost their pitching staff and line-up. Star Corey Seager is one of the best all-around players in baseball and has batted .429 in the post-season.

Texas was also active at the trade deadline, bringing in former Nationals World Series hero Max Scherzer to boost the rotation, but Scherzer injured his shoulder and his status for the ALCS is uncertain.

Look for the Rangers to probably start former Cardinals ace Jordan Montgomery in Game 1. The Rangers bullpen has been questionable this season, but closer Jose Leclerc had a 1.98 ERA in September.

The Key To the Series

The Astros have the experience edge and the knowledge that they thumped the Rangers during the regular season. In the 13 games this year, Houston outscored Texas 93-74 to win the “Silver Boot.”

The stakes for this series are much higher than a regular season trophy. If Scherzer can come back and pitch effectively for Texas, this could be a long series. Both teams are a lot alike, top-heavy line-ups that strike out a lot (that’s just baseball in 2023) and bullpens that can be unpredictable.

Houston is the favorite, but Texas won’t be intimidated by facing their in-state rivals. Its hard to go against the Astros, they’ve been here before, but Texas won’t make it easy.

Born and raised in Louisiana, Darren Cooper has a fond appreciation for bayous, Mardi Gras beads and the sports betting industry. Darren has worked for multiple print and online publications since 1998, primarily as a sports columnist in the Northeast. He’s covered a Super Bowl (it was a blowout), the World Series (same) and the NBA Draft (man, those guys are tall). For the last few years he’s dug deep into the sports gambling industry as it exploded across America, learning how the legal sausage is made and how while all the sportsbooks look the same, they all have different identities and styles. He’s learned to always bet within his means -- and take the under. When not in front of his computer creating, Darren spends time with his three boys. He runs, reads and is always looking for the next big thing to write about.