The Houston Astros appeared to be in the driver's seat entering their ALCS matchup against the Texas Rangers. Not only are they defending their World Series title, but Houston owned Texas in the regular season. That doesn't matter now, though, as they have their backs up against the wall with history not going in their favor.
These squads met 13 times during the 2023 regular season. Despite finishing with identical 90-72 records, the Astros dominated the Rangers, going 9-4 in those head-to-head matchups, scoring nearly 20 more total runs than Texas.
After beating the Minnesota Twins in four games during the ALDS, Houston had the luxury of starting the ALCS at Minute Maid Park. However, this wasn't a scenario where the Astros necessarily thrived during the regular season. Manager Dusty Baker's club went 39-42 at home, compared to 51-30 on the road. So, maybe it shouldn't be too surprising that the Rangers swept the first two ALCS games in Houston before heading back to Arlington for Games 3, 4, and 5.
But if the Astros want to reach the World Series for the fifth time since 2017, they'll need to do something that's literally never been done before:
No team has ever come back to win a league championship series after losing the first two games at home
Will the Astros be the first to do so? pic.twitter.com/DnC3NQnCIe
— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) October 17, 2023
Maybe they should watch the 2004 ALCS between the Red Sox and Yankees for some inspiration.
Those odds aren't great. But then again, let's not forget that the Astros have excelled on the road this year. They were more than 20 games over .500 in that situation during the regular season before winning both road games to clinch their ALDS matchup vs. the Twins.
Maybe this is exactly where the Astros want them. It's not like Texas has struggled at home the way Houston has this year, though. The Rangers have produced more typical results for a winning team by essentially breaking even on the road and winning a bunch of games at home. Manager Bruce Bochy watched his club go 40-41 on the road during the regular season to go along with a 50-31 record at Globe Life Park.
Oh, and Texas is hot right now. They haven't lost in the postseason yet thanks to sweeping the Tampa Bay Rays in the Wild Card Series, sweeping the Baltimore Orioles in the ALDS, and taking these first two ALCS games. So it's not just history the Astros will be working against here. They'll also have to find a way to cool off an opponent that's firing on all cylinders and has all the confidence in the world.
It's not going to be easy. But if there's one squad who can make this happen, it's definitely the Astros. This is one of those scenarios where nothing can be assumed until the Rangers actually win the pennant. The clock is ticking for Houston, though. Winning Game 3 on Wednesday night is absolutely (and obviously) crucial.
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