EDITOR’S NOTE: Even though the American League Championship Series began Sunday night, with the Rangers defeating the Astros 2-0, I thought you’d like to see this guide today, since many of you were likely focused on NFL football.
With no further ado, here’s Sara’s guide.
It’s been a wild week of playoff baseball that saw three more teams with more than 100-win regular seasons swept out of the postseason. The Dodgers, Orioles, and the overwhelming favorites, the Braves, will all be watching playoff baseball from home like the rest of us. It sets up one definitive favorite, the dynastic Astros, against a field of upstarts. Let’s dive in to determine who Cubs fans might cheer for as the penultimate round of baseball begins.
Rangers over Astros: The Battle for Texas
I find Texans’ obsession with themselves both amusing and annoying. But for this year’s American League Championship Series, all eyes will turn to the Lone Star State where Texas’ only two baseball teams will face off head-to-head to determine which team from Texas will play in the World Series.
The Rangers spent $500 million on an infield that is anchored by Marcus Semien and Corey Seager. They haven’t been in the ALCS since 2011, when they won their second trip in a row to the World Series. The Rangers are one of six teams to have never won a World Series.
Meanwhile, the Astros rebuilt a team from scratch and kept the ball rolling. They are appearing in their seventh ALCS in a row — that’s right, remember the last time the Cubs were in the LCS in 2017? Well, the Astros were there too, and they’ve been in every single ALCS since.
Look, if you were a lifelong suffering Houston fan in 2017 who had never seen your team win a World Series, I’m sure you’re standing by your Stros. I don’t blame you for it one bit. But I just have to believe the rest of us are over it and very much hoping the Rangers can make it to the World Series for a change of pace. The Rangers will get some much needed help in the rotation as Max Scherzer and Jon Gray return from injury. Let’s take a look at the rest of their ALCS roster below:
Two new arms added for the ALCS pic.twitter.com/PM0FBIelK4— Texas Rangers (@Rangers) October 15, 2023
It’s a deep rotation that will try and counter the juggernaut from Houston. No real roster changes for the Astros, just a bunch of guys who have been there before, including maybe the best pure hitter on the planet in Yordan Álvarez. I have to believe the Astros will not surrender another trip to the World Series lightly, the Rangers will need to live up to their #GoAndTakeIt postseason hashtag:
Game 1 featured Jordan Montgomery shutting down the powerful Houston lineup for 6⅓ innings, and a home run by Leody Taversas off future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander helped Texas to a 1-0 lead in the series. Game 2 is this afternoon at 3:37 p.m. CT with Nathan Eovaldi going for Texas and Framber Valdez starting for Houston.
Phillies over D-backs: The Party Crasher Bracket
I know this is probably cold consolation to Cubs fans who wish they could have seen playoff baseball in Wrigleyville one more time, but at least we know now that the Diamondbacks team that absolutely throttled their playoff hopes and dreams is real. The rookie-heavy team from Arizona swept the Brewers and then the Dodgers for a chance at the World Series. I, for one, am convinced that Dustin Pedroia might be the greatest motivational speaker of all time.
The Diamondbacks did everything they needed to in the Division Series to make quick work of the Dodgers. From the moment they scored six runs off Clayton Kershaw, to their bullpen allowing only four runs in 11 innings of work, it was the team from Arizona that had taken over in the West — the Dodgers never had a chance. They didn’t even lead once in 27 innings of play.
That said, the D-backs are about to face a whole new level of built for October in this Philadelphia Phillies team. I watched the Phillies a lot this year because Kyle Schwarber will always be one of my favorite Cubs players, Nick Castellanos truly got Wrigley Field and Cubs fans in his short time here and I very much believe there is some alternate universe where Bryce Harper signs with the Cubs and the Cubs are going to their eighth or ninth League Championship Series in a row. Okay, maybe that last part is a bridge too far. But you get the point, there is a lot for Cubs fans to cheer for in Philadelphia.
But the vast majority of my prognostication in these posts has less to do with facts and more to do with vibes. After getting doubled off to cap off a stunning comeback by the Braves in game two, Orlando Arcia was overheard saying “Atta Boy, Harper” in the clubhouse and while Atlanta spent two days bemoaning reporters covering them, the Phillies and their fans did this:
A source sent me this video taken at Xfinity live after Game 3 lol pic.twitter.com/BLRNl4K0Rh— Alex Coffey (@byalexcoffey) October 13, 2023
The story behind Phillies reliever Orion Kerkering’s ‘Atta Boy Harper’ shirt https://t.co/Vm4hKfllF4— Philadelphia Inquirer Sports (@phillysport) October 13, 2023
That is the type of energy that wins championships, and the Diamondbacks will need everything they brought against the Dodgers, plus more, if they are going to keep rolling through Philadelphia.
Here is the Phillies NLCS roster:
And here’s who the D-backs will bring to the NLCS:
I will leave you with how the Diamondbacks and Phillies celebrated their Division Series wins to help you decide who to cheer for. These are both A++ celebrations, but I’ve got to give a very slim edge to the Phillies and Garrett Stubbs here (heads up, there are some game thread words in the Phillies video, because, of course there are):
Who are you cheering for between the Rangers and Astros?
This poll is closed
Who are you cheering for between the Phillies and Diamondbacks?
This poll is closed