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The Texas Rangers are in the enviable position of leading the ALCS 2-0 heading into Game 3 at home against the Houston Astros. Texas is a perfect 7-0 in the playoffs thus far, outscoring opponents 39-16 in those seven games. Obviously, the Rangers are in control of the series at the moment, although the reigning champion Astros aren’t likely to go down without a fight.
Moreover, Houston had the best road record in baseball during the regular season. The Astros also won nine of the 13 head-to-head games between these teams during the regular season, giving them an excellent chance to win Game 3 and get back in the series despite being slight underdogs on the road.
With a 2-0 series lead, the Rangers will send Max Scherzer to the mound on Wednesday. Thanks to a muscle strain, Scherzer hasn’t pitched since September 12. After such a long layoff, there is always a chance that the three-time Cy Young winner isn’t as sharp as usual despite his vast playoff experience. Scherzer has also had a rather erratic season. At times, he’s looked like his old self, throwing six scoreless innings against the Twins in early September and 5.1 scoreless innings against the Blue Jays in the final start before going to the IL.
But Scherzer has also had some atrocious outings, including a start against the Astros in September in which he allowed seven runs in three innings. While the Rangers wouldn’t send Scherzer to the mound if they didn’t have confidence in him, the Astros should like their chances to get going offensively against him, especially with hitters like Yordan Alvarez and Michael Brantley having an excellent track record against Scherzer.
Meanwhile, Cristian Javier will start for Houston and needs to do his part to keep the Astros in the series. The good news is that Javier was effective during the ALDS against the Twins. Despite issuing five walks in that game, Javier struck out nine and only allowed one hit over five scoreless innings. He also closed out the regular season with six scoreless innings against the Diamondbacks, so Javier has been at his best lately despite a rollercoaster of a regular season. The caveat is that Texas is averaging 5.6 runs per game during the playoffs.
The Rangers look capable of doing damage against any pitcher they face. However, Javier figures to be more reliable than Scherzer heading into Game 3. That could help the Astros take an early lead in this game, creating a path for a much-needed victory to stay alive in this series.
Bryan Zarpentine is a 2008 graduate of Syracuse University and has been working as a freelance writer and editor since 2010. During that time, he has contributed to countless sites while covering baseball, soccer, the NFL, college football, and college basketball.More info on Bryan Zarpentine
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