2023-10-17 · 3 min read · MLB/Baseball
Rangers Starting Pitcher Jordan Montgomery

Tony Gutierrez/AP | David Berding/Getty Images

As Vaughan Grissom ended Atlanta’s season on a failed check-swing yesterday evening, all but one division-winning squad remained. Baltimore, Minnesota, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, and now Atlanta - five out of the six teams who got an extended break during the Wild Card round - have been eliminated. Only Houston, who won the NL West on a tiebreaker, remains.
Debates can be had on the effectiveness of too much rest, or “rust”, however the fact remains that the 2023 Postseason has seen an unprecedented amount of perceived upsets going through the Wild Card and Division Series rounds. The mighty AL East, with three teams making the playoffs, amounted a combined zero wins over seven games (0-7). The Los Angeles Dodgers went three-and-out to the surging Arizona Diamondbacks, and the 101-win Baltimore Orioles couldn’t win one game against the Astros. Three of the four remaining squads were Wild Card teams; Arizona (84-78), Philadelphia (90-72), and Texas (90-72). Heck, even Houston finished with the same record as their cross-state rivals.
All this to say, three divisions down and three remain. Here are the NLCS and ALCS matchups:
In the NL, we have a battle of Wild Card teams vying for a spot in the Fall Classic. An Arizona squad who has put together a clean 5-0 record in the Postseason thus far, sweeping both Milwaukee and Los Angeles going up against an equally-hot Phillies group who are 5-1, with their only loss coming in the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves. Two completely different teams, built in extremely different ways - and a significant difference in payroll, too.
On the pitching front, Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly will counter Philadelphia’s Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola, so much so that it should surprise nobody to see all four start over the first two games. Rookie Brandon Pfaadt, who’s pitched pretty well this postseason all things considered, will likely get the ball for Game 3 against lefty Ranger Suarez of the Phillies. Lesser-known arms Joe Mantiply, Kevin Ginkel, and Andrew Saalfrank are just three members of an Arizona ‘pen who have been terrific these playoffs, while Philadelphia has been relying on the likes of flamethrowers Jose Alvarado, Craig Kimbrel, and Gregory Soto as their main arms.
Offensively, it’s hard to compare - mega-contracts in the way of Bryce Harper, Trea Turner, Nick Castellanos, and Kyle Schwarber have allowed Philly to power through opponents all season. J.T. Realmuto, no power slouch himself, has done essentially all the catching up until this point, while Alec Bohm and Bryson Stott add some young energy into an otherwise veteran-heavy squad. Financially, very different from Arizona. Ex-Jays Gabriel Moreno and Lourdes Gurriel Jr. have had terrific postseasons, alongside the likes of Christian Walker and Ketel Marte. Corbin Carroll will win NL ROY, with fellow youngsters Alek Thomas and Geraldo Perdomo producing as well. Oh, and Evan Longoria still patrols third base. Philly has bought a lot, while Arizona has grown within - whatever the outcome, it’ll be a Wild Card team representing the National League in the World Series.
On the American League side, we have a battle of Texas - and the AL West. Two teams with identical records, both having led the West at various points throughout the year, and also having found some playoff magic. The Rangers swept Tampa Bay in two games, then swept Baltimore in three - a 5-0 record, like Arizona. Houston, having only played one series thanks to Wild Card rest, defeated Minnesota 3-1.
Game 1’s pitching matchup has already been announced, with veteran righty Justin Verlander squaring off against Trade Deadline acquisition Jordan Montgomery. Andrew Heaney and Nate Eovaldi will likely get the ball, in some combination, for Games 2 & 3 - both of which pitched against Baltimore in their ALDS matchup. On Houston’s side, Christian Javier and Framber Valdez will, in all likelihood, follow Verlander in the next two games. Both groups will have gotten plenty of rest given the expedited nature of their ALDS’. Rangers’ reliever Cody Bradford was terrific - one of many who were - out of the ‘pen for Texas in Game 2 against Baltimore, and should a game begin spiraling early then look for Bradford to produce some quality innings in relief. Veterans Aroldis Chapman and Will Smith have provided some security in the back end of the bullpen for Texas, with Dane Dunning turning into a solid innings eater and Jose Leclerc starting to regain his former self. Ryan Pressly and Hector Neris have been aces in the bullpen for Houston, with guys like Ryne Stanek and Phil Maton having seen playoff ‘Stros baseball too. Neither bullpen is perfect, yet both have been very successful thus far.
Both teams have the potential to light up the scoreboard offensively, with Corey Seager and Adolis Garcia continuing to mash - oh, and Marcus Semien isn’t too bad either. Josh Jung and Nathaniel Lowe corner the Rangers’ infield with pop throughout the lineup. Opposing Texas are Houston’s core of been-there, done-that with the likes of Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Kyle Tucker, Yordan Alvarez, and Martin Maldonaldo. Jose Abreu joins the crew this postseason too, with Michael Brantley and Jeremy Pena also having been a part of a postseason Minute Maid Park.
The battle of state rivals begins tonight, with Arizona/Philadelphia beginning their series on Monday.
Sports Tree Profile

By: Gus Cousins


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