The Houston Astros return to their third straight ALCS, and only the New York Yankees stand in the way of their second World Series appearance since they won the title in 2017. The Houston Astros improved to 1/1 World Series odds, or even money, after advancing to the ALCS.

Houston Astros ALCS Cole Verlander
Houston Astros pitchers Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander are the top two pitchers in the American League. (Image: Marco Esquandoles/Burlington Press)

The big dogs on the block are finally going to rumble. The banged-up Yankees won 103 games, while the Astros secured the most wins in baseball with a 107-55 record.

The narrative all season boiled down to the winner of the Astros and Yankees would face the Dodgers in the World Series. Now that the Dodgers are dunzo, some fans are dubbing the ALCS the “real” World Series because the Yankees and Astros are the two best teams remaining.

This marks only the fifth time that two, 100-plus win teams will meet in a playoff series. In this year’s ALDS, the Yankees (103-59) and Minnesota Twins (101-61), marked the fourth time it occurred.

The Astros won 107 games this year because they excel in hitting and pitching. Manager AJ Hinch has three aces in his back pocket when half the league doesn’t even have one. Gerrit Cole hasn’t lost a game since late May, and Justin Verlander looks as nasty as ever. There’s a reason why the bookies are only offering even money odds that the Astros will win the 2019 World Series.

Trip Astros Aces = Even World Series Odds

During 2019, the Astros had the second-best team ERA in the American League at 3.66. They also lead the majors in opposing batting average at .221.

The Astros already had the two best pitchers in baseball with Verlander and Cole, before they added Zack Greinke in the closing hours before the trade deadline. The Astros were already one of the favorites to win the World Series before the trade, but their odds jumped to 3/1 on the Greinke acquistion.

Houston blew a 2-0 lead in the ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays. Verlander and Cole shutdown the Rays in the first two games, but their bats finally woke up in Game 3. Hinch let Verlander talk him into gambling on short rest, which backfired when Verlander got rocked in Game 4. The Astros didn’t flinch in the elimination game. Cole two-hit the Rays, who looked lost all night against the strikeout machine.

HOUSTON ACES
Zack Greinke (18-5, 2.93 ERA, 0.98 WHIP)
Justin Verlander (21-6, 2.58 ERA, 0.89 WHIP)
Gerrit Cole (20-5, 2.50 ERA, 0.89 WHIP)

Greinke will start Game 1 against Masahiro Tanaka. Verlander, on proper rest, starts Game 2 against James Paxton. Cole gets the start for Game 3 in Yankee Stadium on Tuesday.

Cole is as hot as you can get. He won his last 16 starts of the regular season. Add two more ALDS victories, and he’s riding an 18-0 streak dating back to May 22. To think at one point, Cole struggled at the start of the season with a 4-5 record and an unimpressive a 4.11 ERA before finishing 20-5, and dropping down to a CY Young-worthy 2.50 ERA.

“When you have Gerrit Cole on the mound, we win,” said Hinch.

Cole and Verlander became the 18th and 19th players in MLB history to strike out 300 batters in the season. They became only the second teammates to achieve that feat in the same season. In 2002, Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling both struck out at least 300 batters for the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Houston Bombers

On offense, the Astros led the AL in hitting with a .274 team average. They can mash with the best home runs squads in the league, like the Yankees.

The Yankees hit 306 home runs this season, the second most in baseball behind the Minnesota “Bombas” Twins. The Astros hit 288 homers, an impressive amount which fell under the radar, for third best in the AL. The Yankees and Twins both passed 300, which had never been done before, so they drew all the media attention.

At least four Astros passed the 30 HR plateau. Third baseman Alex Bregman led the team with 41 home runs and 112 RBI. Centerfielder George Spring missed 40 games, but he still hit 39 homers. First baseman Yuli Gurriel had an amazing year with 31 homers and 104 RBI. Jose Altuve missed almost five weeks of action, yet he still connected on 31 home runs and hit .298.

Altuve is coming in hot with three home runs in only five postseason games.

Rookie outfielder Yordan Alvarez is the biggest surprise. The 22-year old from Cuba locked up the Rookie of the Year from the moment Houston called him up from AAA in June. In 87 games, Alvarez hit 27 home runs and drove in 78 RBI with an other-wordly slashline of .313/.412/.655.

Alvarez has yet to connect on his first postseason home run, but he hit .316 in his first playoff action.

Home Sweet Home Field

How much does home field matter? Huge. The Bronx Zoo isn’t a pleasant place for visiting teams to play in October. And, magical things happen to the Astros at Minute Maid Park. Those breaking balls have a little more bite to them in Houston, for some mythical reason.

The Astros didn’t lose much at Minute Maid Park. They boasted the best home record in baseball at 60-21. To put that in perspective, the three worst teams in the AL failed to win 60 games (Tigers, Orioles, and Royals) all season.

In the 2017 ALCS, the home team won every game. The Yankees blew a 3-2 lead, and the Astros went on to the World Series.

In the 2019 regular season series, the Astros edged out the Yankees 4-3.

According to William Hill, the Astros are even money odds or +100 to win the 2019 World Series. The Yankees are 5/2 odds to win the title.

Mattress Mack placed a futures bet worth $3.5 million that the Houston Astros will win the World Series. He also wagered $1.5 million (and won) that the Astros would defeat the Tampa Bay Rays in the ALDS. No word on Mattress Mack’s action in the ALCS, but we anticipate there’s a seven figure bet on the Astros to win the ALCS coming somewhere soon.

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