The Houston Astros clinched their seventh consecutive trip to the ALCS on Wednesday night with a 3-2 win. That win locked in the first playoff matchup between the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros in what will be the Lone Star showdown. There will not be any love lost between these two organizations. Hard feelings go back years for some and it even boiled over into a benches clearing incident back in July.
There also was the controversy that surrounded how much Texas celebrated making the playoffs back in Seattle. Houston media speculated that maybe Texas celebrated too much for just making the playoffs and squandered a chance to win the division. That led to back and forths between the Texas Rangers media contingent, Astros media, and fans that lasted until Texas kicked off the wild card round. Last night as Houston celebrated their series win over the Twins Dusty Baker added another chapter to this celebration controvery. I guarantee that Texas Rangers players were watching and will remember what Dusty said in that moment.
Dusty Baker providing bulletin board material for the ALCS
This upcoming ALCS is already going to be played with a heightened tension as these teams have already played 13 games against each other. Now Texas Rangers players will have in the back of their minds what Dusty said in his moment of celebration in the Astros clubhouse. The Astros player had all gathered together after the game and Dusty decided to allow Justin Verlander to do the toast for the team and he said this when doing so,
"I'm doing the World Series!. You(Verlander) do this one."- Dusty Baker
I guess when you are the Astros manager and your team has advanced to consecutive World Series and three of the last four then you probably think you can make plans to do a toast when your team wins. Make no mistake about it, Dusty is looking past Texas and is already making plans on how they are going to celebrate winning this ALCS. I do think there is an arrogance that comes from the Astros. It existed when Jeff Luhnow was the GM and is still around at the start of this series
Houston did win the series in Arlington back in September very handily. The team they faced in that series will look drastically different than the team they played on Labor Day. That Texas Rangers team was playing their worst baseball of the season by far. They were missing Josh Jung still, Evan Carter was in Round Rock, Adolis Garcia could not stop chasing high fastballs, Nathan Eovaldi was just coming off the IL, and Max Scherzer was trying to pitch through a shoulder injury. An injury that would eventually land him on the IL. That Texas team was in the middle of a stretch that saw them lost 16 of 20.
This Texas team is healthy and getting healthier with the potential additions of Max Scherzer and Jon Gray. Evan Carter has rejuvenated this team with his patient approach and ability to get the big hit. Josh Jung is providing length to the lineup and providing power from the eighth spot. Jose Leclerc has solved the ninth inning issue that has plagued this team for much of the second half. This postseason Bochy has masterfully handled the bullpen. If you combine that with the length the starters are giving him it has made Bochy's job very easy.
It would be to Texas' advantage if Houston is taking Texas lightly and assuming that they will be able to dominate this series. Texas just beat two teams that had a combined 200 wins and now takes on a team that had the same amount of wins they had. Houston has the experience, they have the talent, and they know how to win this series. Just a reminder though it has been since 2001 when the Yankees made it to four consecutive World Series that a team has had this long a reign atop the AL or NL.
Texas will respect Houston and what they have accomplished, but they will not fear the Astros. This team is full of veterans who have played in this round and beyond. Corey Seager, Nathan Eovaldi, Will Smith, Max Scherzer, and Aroldis Chapman. I am sure they will pass that knowledge down to some of the young guys. Those players also will not be overwhelmed by the moment and will not be playing with a just happy to be here attitude
Maybe when Texas wins they will walk over to the Astros clubhouse and allow Dusty Baker to still give the toast to the Rangers. He obviously has something planned he wants to say, I am sure Bochy won't mind allowing him to say it to his team.
The series gets started on Sunday night in Houston. Texas will have their chance to strike first blood against Justin Verlander. Hopefully the Rangers' players remember Dusty's quote and are able to use it against him and his team.