The ALCS is set to get underway on Monday, and one of the matchups pits AL West division rivals against one another as the Houston Astros will take on the Oakland Athletics. As MLB tries to set up a “bubble” atmosphere, the two will battle from the neutral site of Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. First pitch for Game 1 on Monday is scheduled for 4:07 pm ET.
The Astros were able to get through the Wild Card series with relative ease as they swept the Minnesota Twins in two games. For Oakland, they went the distance but were ultimately able to prevail over the Chicago White Sox. Both will look to win this series to move onto the ALCS and face the winner of the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees.
The pitching matchup for Monday’s contest will feature Lance McCullers Jr. (3-3, 3.93 ERA) going for the Houston Astros against the Oakland A’s Chris Bassitt (5-2, 2.29 ERA).
The Athletics come into this one as the favorite to win the series. They are currently at -136 to take down the Astros in the best of five while Houston sits at +116.
By The Numbers
Offensively, the Astros were slightly better at scoring runs this season. They currently rank 14th overall averaging 4.61 runs per game. The Athletics come in 17th in the majors averaging 4.54 runs per game.
Defensively, it is the Athletics who hold the upper hand. They rank 5th overall in terms of runs allowed per game at 3.86. The Astros come in 12th, allowing an average of 4.47 runs per game.
Astros Hope To Reverse Fortune Against Division Rivals
The Houston Astros were certainly not good against the Athletics during the regular season. In fact, out of 10 games, they only went 3-7 against the division rivals. Still, Houston knows that everything resets in October, and they will look to take Game 1 at Dodger Stadium.
To do so, they will turn to righty McCullers. With the two-game sweep, McCullers did not throw in the opening round, so he will be well-rested.
Manager Dusty Baker is hoping to see the same McCullers that he saw over the last 30 days. In that stretch, he threw three games and allowed seven hits, zero earned runs, walked four, and struck out 24 over 17.2 innings pitched.
Baker will also hope that the offense can find a way to produce. Many of the Astros’ offensive regular struggled through the regular season, but they were still able to scrap together seven runs in two games in the Wild Card series. Shortstop Carlos Correa led the way in the opening round, going 3-for-6 with a home run.
A’s Look To Pitching Staff To Advance
While the Athletics can find ways to put runs on the board, their bread and butter is their pitching staff. No A’s starter has been more dominant this season than Game 1 starter Chris Bassitt. In his one start in the Wild Card series, Bassitt went seven innings allowing six hits, one earned run, and struck out five.
If Bassitt can give the A’s that type of production, their vaunted bullpen will likely be able to take care of the rest.
Offensively, their lineup did take a hit after Matt Chapman underwent season-ending surgery, but the A’s still have a knack for grinding out at-bats and putting pressure on the defense. In the opening series, catcher Sean Murphy was their best hitter as he hit .375/.500/.750 with a home run and three runs scored. During that opening series, Murphy, Marcus Semien, and Khris Davis all homered for the Athletics.
Taking the A’s In Game 1
This one comes down to pitching. While Lance McCullers Jr. finished the season strong, Chris Bassitt was dominant all season long.
The A’s also have a much stronger and more proven bullpen, so I think they hold the edge in this one. It might be enticing to bet on the reigning AL champion Astros, but for my money, I am taking the A’s to take the opener.