Philly's Bryce Harper and Arizona's Corbin Carroll in action

c/o Kyle Ross & Lynne Sladky

The MLB Playoffs are in full swing, and 4 teams remain out of the 12 who set out to become champs. Here are our previews and predictions for the American League (by Ethan Lee ’26) and National League (by Spencer Landers ’26) Championship Series and who will earn a chance to play in the World Series.

American League Championship Series (written before game two)

The ALCS features a Lone Star State matchup for the ages as the Texas Rangers take on the Houston Astros for a spot in the Fall Classic. The Astros are the defending champs, and although they experienced a slight regression this year, they won the AL West with a record of 90–72 to secure a first-round bye. They saw significant contributions from right fielder Kyle Tucker (29 HRs and league-leading 112 RBIs), designated hitter Yordan Álvarez (.990 OPS), and All-Star second baseman José Altuve (.311 batting average), as well as a standout season from rookie catcher Yainer Díaz. Some of the regression might come from Houston’s pitching, which led the league with an unbelievable 2.90 ERA in 2022 that ballooned to 3.94 for the 2023 campaign. While some of this is due to increased run production throughout the league, it still contributed to the Astros winning 16 fewer games this season.

The Rangers, though, have had a difficult path to the ALCS. With Houston controlling the West for the past several years, you have to go back to 2016 to see Texas make the playoffs and all the way to 2011 to find the Rangers suiting up for the ALCS. Texas lost star pitcher Jacob DeGrom early in the year, but despite this the Rangers maintained a lead of a few games on the Astros for the divisional lead into late September. However, in the final few days of the regular season Houston caught up and won the division from the Rangers in the final game of the season. This was disheartening, but the Rangers still had a stellar season as they led the American League in almost every major offensive category (runs, hits, HRs, batting average, OPS, etc.) and had their best record (90–72) since 2016, although they were only able to secure a Wild Card position for the playoffs. The road to the championship series was by no means clear though, as they first faced the Tampa Bay Rays in a best-of-three Wild Card Series. This series, in which Tampa Bay was favored by record (they were 99–63), was all Texas as the Rangers swept the Rays and outscored them 11–1 in the two games. Next was the best AL team, the Baltimore Orioles, but again the Rangers defied the oddsmakers and swept Baltimore three games to nil. 

On Sunday, Oct. 15, the Rangers took on the Astros in Houston for the first game of the ALCS. Astros pitcher Justin Verlander pitched a great game, but the Rangers’ Jordan Montgomery was the ace, throwing six and a third innings of shutout baseball. With a home run by center fielder Leody Taveras and an RBI single by catcher Jonah Heim, the Rangers shut out the Astros on their home turf 2–0. Watch for the Rangers to put on an offensive show for one or two games (putting up double digit runs or close to that) and the Astros to be playing from behind a lot. It would be silly to count the Astros out this early, but so far this postseason the Rangers can only be described as “Giant Killers,” taking down some of the heavy World Series favorites, so it would only be fitting that they take down the 2022 Champs as well.

Predictions:

  • Rangers take down the Astros in six games.
  • Corey Seager wins ALCS MVP.
  • Yordan Álvarez single-handedly wins one game for the Astros.
  • ‘Mattress Mack’ McIngvale loses his $6.9 million wager on Houston.

National League Championship Series

There should be a lot of close games in this series. Philadelphia and Arizona both have their two aces in line to start the first two games: Zack Wheeler and Aaron Nola for the former, and Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly for the latter. They’ve all been solid in the playoffs so far, as have the bullpens for both teams. If one team scores four runs, there’s a great chance that’ll be enough to drag them to victory, albeit with sweaty palms and short nails. In that same vein, the long ball will be important, as it was in the NLDS for both teams. The Diamondbacks hit four home runs in games one and three, and Philadelphia hit a record-tying six in game three, in addition to at least one in every game. Both teams had all their runs in their respective NLDS clinchers scored by the solo home run. The Phillies and Diamondbacks are fast teams, but overall, stolen-base-small-ball style play will be less important than being able to hit a homer or two. Thus, in games one and two of the NLCS, I would expect 3–1 or 4–3 type scores, with whoever gets that big home run with runners on base winning. 

Another factor for the first two games is, of course, home-field advantage for the Phillies. There has been much talk of the boisterous home crowd in Philly and the way that their sheer volume can intimidate opponents. While maybe not a huge deal and hard to quantify, it’s definitely an advantage that exists. If they can split here, the Diamondbacks should be happy heading home to the desert. 

In Arizona, the lean part of the rotations will be coming around for both teams. With subpar starters like Brandon Pfaadt and Ryne Nelson for Arizona, and average guys like Ranger Suarez and Taijuan Walker for Philadelphia, there should be more offense, with the lineups being able to string hits off of pitchers early. Speedsters like Trea Turner and Corbin Carroll will be able to wreak havoc. If they haven’t already in the first two games, the bullpens will be stretched, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see a bullpen game or a starter get pulled after two or three solid innings. I don’t think that the series will be decided out west. Once the series shifts back to Philadelphia, the Phillies will have that distinct home-field advantage again. But also, if a few players can get hot in these final games, they can carry their team to the World Series. Philadelphia has Turner, Bryce Harper, Kyle Schwarber, and Nick Castellanos, who hit four homers in the NLDS. While anyone can play hero in the playoffs, Arizona just doesn’t have the big veterans like Philly. The Phillies’ star power should be able to clinch their second straight pennant in what will be a close series. 

Predictions:

  • The NLCS will go to seven games, with the Philadelphia Phillies clinching at home.
  • Trea Turner wins NLCS MVP.
  • Some playoff stolen base record will be tied or broken.
  • The Diamondbacks will not be celebrating in their pool this round.

Ethan Lee can be reached at ejlee@wesleyan.edu

Spencer Landers can be reached at sklanders@wesleyan.edu

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