The ALCS is knotted at two games apiece heading into Game 5 this afternoon. Both the Texas Rangers and the Houston Astros want desperately to get a win and take a 3-2 series lead. After seeing their commanding 2-0 series lead evaporate over the last two days, the Rangers will have to refocus on the task at hand as they take the field today.
Odds that the Texas Rangers will win the ALCS
Before Game 3 in Arlington, Fangraphs gave the Rangers a 75.4% chance at winning the series. After their loss last night in Game 4 the analytically based website has the odds of the Rangers advancing to the World Series at 43.7%. While the current numbers don't exactly indicate the series being a tossup, they don't spell impending doom for Texas either.
Let's cut to the chase. We all felt better about things when Texas was leaving Houston with a two-game lead and a chance to finish off the defending World Series champs in Arlington. But we shouldn't have lost hope that this Rangers team can still find a way to take the ALCS. Baseball is a funny game, that when you are on the wrong side of a win, can appear too not be quite so funny.
The breaks seemed to go the Rangers way in the first two games, and they swung hard in the Astros favor the last two games. These two teams had identical records in the regular season and find themselves tied after four games. This is the way that it was always going to be. The Astros aren't a far superior team over the Rangers, and the same can be said the other way as well. Basically, these next two, or three, games are going to go to the team that can take advantage of opportunities offensively, play solid defense, and pitch effectively. Perfect baseball will not be required, but a combination of good bounces and an opportunistic performance will determine who advances to the World Series.
Texas Rangers bats were better in Game 4 than the box score indicated
Offensively the Rangers swung the bat pretty well last night, which is encouraging. Not only did they have eight hits, but there were several hard hit balls right at defenders that kept their scoring down. In the bottom of the fifth inning, with the Rangers trailing 7 to 3, they looked poised to make yet another comeback. Leody Taveras and Marcus Semien started the inning off with back-to-back singles. Corey Seager promptly scorched a 108.6mph line shot right at Jose Abreu at first base. He was able to catch the ball and tag Semien's batting glove. Yes, his batting glove. In fact, it was just one finger of his batting glove, but it still resulted in a double play.
Evan Carter was up next and sent a rocket up the middle at 106mph, but the line drive found the centerfielders glove to end the potential rally. If those two shots find holes, it could have easily turned the game around and headed it in a completely different direction. The final score was bad, no doubt, but there are several positives to take from last night's game into this afternoon.
Texas Rangers pitching lined up for final push to make the World Series
On the mound, the Rangers have the three guys that they would want lined up on full rest over the next three games (if a Game 7 is needed). Jordan Montgomery goes today, Nathan Eovaldi will pitch on Sunday, and if a Game 7 is needed, Max Scherzer will be ready to go. The Astros have their top guys lined up as well, but the fact that the Rangers are going to have the pitchers that they want leading the way is a huge energy boost for the team.
Another encouraging factor is that Bruce Bochy's main arms out of the pen are going to be on full rest as well. He can use them today however he deems necessary and then with the off day tomorrow, will be able to do the same thing again on Sunday. And as we all know, if there is a Game 7, it will be all hands-on deck with a trip to the World Series at stake.
This ALCS has come down to who can take two of three. Baseball is hard and playoff baseball is harder. Navigating the highs and lows is a challenge, but this Rangers team is as resilient of a bunch as I have seen in quite some time. Don't count out the Rangers in this series no matter how things break today. Don't take this playoff run for granted and remember to enjoy the ride!