#2 Starting Pitching has to give the Rangers length
In the last series these teams played back in September the starting pitching was a major issue. Andrew Heaney, Nathan Eovaldi, and Max Scherzer started the three games and none of them pitched into the sixth inning. That cannot happen in this series. Scherzer will likely be on a pitch count at least in his first start. The combination of Max and whoever comes in after him have to get to at least the sixth inning or beyond.
Texas has not had to go very deep into their bullpen through these first five games. Bochy has been able to use Sborz, Chapman, and Leclerc in the late innings. Bradford pitched well in his 3 2/3 innings in game two of the ALDS, and Dane Dunning combined with Andrew Heaney to get Texas through the early innings in game one of the ALDS. If Texas is having to call upon other members of the bullpen that is where it could get pretty hairy for the Rangers.
Texas has a formula that has served them well this postseason. Starter goes six to seven innings, leaves with the lead, then Sborz, Chapman, and Leclerc close it out. That formula can work against Houston.
The formula is relient on pitchers attacking the strike zone, staying away from walks, and being efficient with their pitch counts. Texas cannot be afraid of throwing strikes against this lineup. The worst thing Texas can do is putting guys on with walks. That is how Houston is able to have big innings.
Texas' starters need to pitch deep into games and not be afraid to pitch in the strike zone. They need to stick to the formula that has led them to their first five wins of the postseason. If they do that they will win this series.
#3. The Rangers' Young Guns need to produce
Every postseason run there are players that announce themselves as the next stars of major league baseball. This postseason two of those players have been Evan Carter and Josh Jung. The Rangers' rookies have excelled to. this point. Jung and Carter have played a role in each of the Rangers' wins.
Carter has reached base in each game this postseason. He has six hits in 14 at-bats. He has three doubles, one home run, and three RBIs. The most impressive aspect has been his plate discipline. He has lived up to his nickname of full-count Carter this postseason. He works every count to nearly a full count. This postseason that has led to him reaching base via walk six times. He started off as the nine hitter but has since been moved up to hitting fifth. There is a good chance by Opening Day 2024 that he will be the leadoff hitter. He has done everything the team has needed of him and his approach has been contagious as more hitters in the lineup are working counts since he was promoted. Do not forget Houston has not seen Evan Carter. He was promoted after the last Houston series when Adolis Garcia went down with an injury. It will be interesting to see how the Astros go about attacking Carter. He is not your typical rookie.
Josh Jung fully healthy now has been an extra base machine the last four games. Jung went 0-4 in game one against Tampa Bay. He has been on fire since then. He is 8-12 in the last four games. He has three doubles, one triple, and one home run. He has been doing this from the eight spot in the order. Jung much like what Chas McCormack provides for Houston has been the bridge between the bottom of the order to the top of the order. Jung's ability to get on-base has led to Semien and Seager having more opportunities to drive in runs. That has to continue to give the lineup depth and make them more difficult to pitch to for the Astros pitching staff.
Jung and Carter are rookies in their first postseason, but have quickly become indispensable parts of this lineup. In some cases just as important as Seager and Semien. Neither of these players were on the roster last time Houston and Texas played. If they can impact this series both on offense and on defense Texas will have a good chance at winning this series.
#4. Texas Rangers' pitching has to keep Altuve and Bregman from reaching base
Yordan Alvarez is the scary monster in the Astros lineup. He is the one that will keep pitchers and coaching staffs awake at night. He is the one who has the potential to single-handedly carry the Astros to the World Series. The thing that makes him even scarier is if Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman are reaching base in front of Alvarez. If Texas gives up a solo home run to Alvarez that will likely not be a game changer. If Alvarez is hitting two or three-run home runs that could be the difference between winning and losing.
Houston's big innings normally will start with Altuve and then go from there. In the series back in September Altuve hit five home runs in that three-game series. Texas pitching had no answers for Altuve. Texas has to limit what Altuve and Bregman provide in this series. It is about having a plan and being able to execute on that plan. It will be about keeping the ball down and hopefully being able to induce ground balls and keeping them from getting it into the air and into those Crawford boxes in left field at Minute Maid Park.
If Texas can mostly keep those two off-base then that will allow them to be able to go after Alvarez and be aggressive in the zone with him. Alvarez is not a robot. He does have weaknesses, but they are few. Texas this season has faced Alvarez in seven of the 13 games the teams have played. In those seven games Alvarez has a .308 batting average, with three home runs, and eight RBIs. One of his weaknesses seems to be when he falls behind in the count. If Texas can get ahead and stay ahead in counts their chances of getting him out increase. Alvarez has a .252 batting average when he is behind in the count with 45 strikeouts in 127 at-bats. Throw strike one and then stay ahead in the count. If there is a base open Texas should not be afraid to walk Alvarez and take their chances with Kyle Tucker.
It all comes down to Texas controlling Altuve and Bregman hitting one-two in the Astros order. If they can do that it will give them more opportunities to attack Alvarez or the opportunity to pitch around him if they choose to do that.
Texas has a path to win this series. There is no doubt in my mind about that. If they can do these four things I think they will win this series. They will end Houston's run atop the AL. They will then have home field advantage in the World Series for the first time in team history.