Rangers-Astros position-by-position breakdown

October 15th, 2023

You can't ask for much more than a rivalry series to decide the pennant. And this one is Texas-sized.

The Rangers and Astros are about to battle it out in the American League Championship Series -- the first time the two Lone Star State rivals will meet in the postseason.

Both of these teams are heavyweights. The Astros are the defending World Series champions, and their championship core is back for another run. But the Rangers have just as much firepower, and they're on a roll. Texas has yet to lose a game this postseason.

Who will advance to the World Series between the AL West foes? Let's break it down, position by position.


is Old Reliable for the Astros, and the 37-year-old's experience handling the Houston pitching staff earned him the starting nod at catcher for the ALDS over slugging rookie (23 home runs, 128 OPS+). But is just as reliable for the Rangers. He's approaching 100 total RBIs for the year between the regular season and postseason after a couple of key hits off the Orioles' top two starters, Kyle Bradish and Grayson Rodriguez, in the ALDS, and he made one of the biggest plays of the series behind the plate when he caught Gunnar Henderson stealing in the ninth inning of Texas' 3-2 Game 1 win.

Edge: Rangers

First base

didn't have his best regular-season performance in his first year in Houston, but he was absolutely hammering the ball in the ALDS. The veteran slugger crushed three home runs in the series -- a pair of 440-plus-foot blasts in Game 3 and an opposite-field rocket in the Astros' clinching Game 4 win -- and his eight RBIs make him the current 2023 postseason leader.

is coming off his best game of the postseason in the Rangers' ALDS clincher, when he knocked his first homer of the playoffs. But it's been a slow postseason overall -- after his 17-homer, 82-RBI regular season, Lowe is just 4-for-25 entering the ALCS, a .160 average.

Edge: Astros

Second base

This is one of the toughest calls of any position matchup: vs. . If Semien was performing like he did in the regular season (29 home runs, 14 steals, 100 RBIs, an AL-leading 185 hits and 122 runs scored), he might have it. But the Rangers' leadoff man is batting just .174 without a home run in the playoffs.

And Playoff Altuve always seems to show up. He started the Astros' postseason with a bang, blasting a leadoff home run in Game 1 of the ALDS at Minute Maid Park. That was Altuve's 24th career playoff home run, second-most all time behind only Manny Ramirez (29). He might have some more in him in the ALCS.

Edge: Astros

Third base

Here's a bold prediction for the ALCS: outplays . Bregman has the track record, having led Houston to two World Series titles, with 16 playoff home runs along the way, including one off Sonny Gray in this year's ALDS. But he can also run hot and cold in the postseason, with a .200 batting average this year and a .235 career average. Meanwhile, the rookie Jung is red hot in his first career postseason. The 25-year-old is batting .400 with a 1.209 OPS and five extra-base hits entering the ALCS -- three doubles, a triple and a home run. Jung is a huge factor for the Rangers' deep lineup. No one would be surprised if Bregman comes through with some big hits for the reigning champs, but we're going to give Jung some shine here.

Edge: Rangers


This is a cool matchup. vs. . World Series MVP vs. World Series MVP. Seager was the Dodgers' World Series MVP in 2020, and Peña, of course, was the Astros' as a rookie last year. (They were both even the MVP of their respective LCS in those seasons, too.)

But as much credit as you've got to give Peña as a youngster who rises to the occasion on the playoff stage … Seager is Seager. He might be the best all-around hitter left in the playoffs, and he's been an absolute force in the Rangers' lineup. Seager's batting .429 with a 1.537 OPS this postseason. He has a home run, three doubles and a ridiculous 11 walks to two strikeouts.

Edge: Rangers

Left field

looks like a rising star for the Rangers with the postseason he's having -- he's the Rangers' 2023 version of Peña for the Astros in 2022. The rookie sensation also has an eerily similar stat line to Seager: Both players are batting .429 and slugging .857 with a home run, three doubles and three RBIs this postseason (Carter also has excellent strikeout-to-walk numbers, with six walks and only three K's).

For the Astros, split time between left field and designated hitter in the ALDS. He could be in the outfield at Minute Maid Park, and when he is, Carter can't equal his bat. But we'll consider Alvarez more at DH for our purposes here -- that's where he was for two of Houston's three wins vs. the Twins, including the Game 4 clincher. Having in left field when Alvarez DHs still gives the Astros a solid veteran hitter who's a tough out. But Carter has more potential to alter the series with his exciting tools.

Edge: Rangers

Center field 

Both teams have rangy center fielders -- has been worth +6 Outs Above Average for the Rangers this season, and  has been worth +4 Outs Above Average for the Astros. The difference is McCormick's offense.

McCormick is a power-speed threat who had a 22-homer, 19-steal regular season with a 130 OPS+, and now he's batting .364 in the playoffs. Taveras contributes in both of those categories, too, with 14 homers and 14 steals in the regular season, but overall he only had a 97 OPS+. And he's batting .263 in the postseason so far.

Edge: Astros

Right field

This is the other ridiculously close call besides second base. and are both All-Star sluggers coming off monster regular seasons -- García crushed 39 home runs with 107 RBIs, and Tucker had 29 homers, 30 stolen bases and an American League-leading 112 RBIs. We need a deciding factor … and that's going to be the big blows García has struck for the Rangers this postseason.

García crushed clutch home runs in both series clinchers for Texas. He opened the scoring against the Rays in Game 2 of the Wild Card Series with a homer off Zach Eflin, and he broke open Game 3 of the ALDS against the O's with a three-run blast off Dean Kremer. Tucker is great, but he's batting only .143 in the playoffs without a home run or steal entering the ALCS.

Edge: Rangers

Designated hitter 

finally got into the starting lineup for the Rangers during the ALDS and came through with a huge grand slam in Game 2 and two-run double in Game 3, finishing with seven RBIs in his two games.  could still get at-bats, but assuming Garver is the primary DH for the ALCS, Texas has a slugger in the No. 3 spot who can change a game with one swing of the bat.

But the Astros have the most dangerous slugger in the playoffs: Alvarez. If Alvarez takes the primary DH duties, no one stacks up to him. He crushed four home runs in the ALDS, putting him in a tie with the Twins' Royce Lewis for the 2023 postseason lead. That gives Alvarez seven postseason homers since the start of Houston's World Series run last year, and 10 for his career. He sure seems like a good bet to add on to that against the Rangers.

Edge: Astros

Starting rotation

The single biggest question entering the ALCS: Will be able to pitch for the Rangers? We have our answer, with Scherzer and right-hander Jon Gray added to the ALCS roster. Whether Scherzer is able to start or needs to pitch out of the bullpen, the three-time Cy Young Award winner will be a big boost. But either way, and have been so good this postseason that they make the starting pitching battle close with a deep Astros staff. Montgomery and Eovaldi are a combined 3-0 with a 2.19 ERA and 22 strikeouts in their four playoff starts.

On the other hand, the Astros got equally lights-out pitching performances in the ALDS from the ageless and , who combined for 11 scoreless innings. And if Houston gets going after his tough start vs. the Twins, that's another ace-level pitcher the Rangers have to contend with. Add in as a solid No. 4 starter, and the Astros are built to navigate a seven-game series. Really, even if Scherzer is able to go for the Rangers, it's hard to beat the Astros' starting depth.

Edge: Astros


Rangers relievers held up well through the postseason run, with , and  combining to allow just one run in 11 appearances between them. But the Texas bullpen always feels a little bit like a tightrope walk.

The Astros have plenty of reliable relief arms, starting with the dominant late-inning combo of setup man and closer . Abreu has racked up seven strikeouts in his three postseason outings, all scoreless. And Pressly is a perfect 13-for-13 in postseason save opportunities in his career, including 2-for-2 this October.

Edge: Astros


It's not easy to dethrone the reigning champs. The Astros have been here before, they've won it before, and they have some of the best postseason performers in baseball. But if anyone can do it, it's the Rangers, who are firing on all cylinders after their back-to-back sweeps of the top two teams in the AL during the regular season. As much as the Astros know how to get it done in October, so do the leaders the Rangers have brought in: Seager, Scherzer, Eovaldi and three-time World Series champion manager Bruce Bochy.

The Astros stole the division from the Rangers on the last day of the regular season. The Rangers will steal the pennant from the Astros in a winner-take-all Game 7.

Rangers in 7