MLB Playoff Picture 2023: ALCS, NLCS Hot Takes, Top Storylines for Monday's Schedule
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MLB Playoff Picture 2023: ALCS, NLCS Hot Takes, Top Storylines for Monday's Schedule

Dec 02, 2023

The penultimate round of the 2023 MLB postseason officially got underway on Sunday night, as the Texas Rangers took a 1-0 series lead over the Houston Astros in the ALCS.

Buoyed by some stellar pitching from Jordan Montgomery, the Rangers stymied a talented Astros offense en route to a 2-0 victory. Houston will try to rebound in Monday's Game 2, while the Arizona Diamondbacks and Philadelphia Phillies are set to begin the NLCS later in the evening.

Here's a quick preview of what lies ahead, and a look at some of the top storylines heading into Monday's action.

ALCS Game 2: Texas Rangers at Houston Astros

When: 4:37 p.m. ET

TV and Live Stream: Fox, FS1 and MLB.TV

NLCS Game 1: Arizona Diamondbacks at Philadelphia Phillies

When: 8:07 p.m. ET

TV and Live Stream: TBS, MLB Network and Max

Sunday's game was far from a domination by the Rangers. Houston had several opportunities to battle back, and when Alex Bregman hit a shot in the eighth, the Astros appeared poised to score. However, an incredible Evan Carter catch at the wall led to a double play instead.

With just a smidge more offense, the Astros can even up the series. Against starting Rangers pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, second baseman José Altuve might be the one to provide it.

According to ESPN, Altuve has homered five times against Eovaldi in 11 plate appearances. with a .289 average and a .341 on-base percentage. Houston has traditionally fared well against Eovaldi, but Altuve, in particular, can provide a spark.

Altuve will, presumably, also avoid the type of mental mistake we saw on Sunday. He was ruled out on that aforementioned eight-inning double play after forgetting to touch second base on his way back to first.

"I didn't touch the base, that's what happened," Altuve said, per Matt Young of the Houston Chronicle.

With a better offensive outing and a cleaner game, the Astros can get in the win column.

Philadelphia fans who watched the Phillies close out the Braves on Thursday received a bit of a scare when star first baseman Bryce Harper appeared to suffer a late elbow injury.

Late in the eighth inning, Harper was seen clutching his right elbow, the same one that was surgically repaired in November. However, the 30-year-old insisted after the game that it wasn't anything serious.

"I'm good. Just hit my funny bone," Harper said, per Kyle Irving of The Sporting News.

Harper should be good to go in this series, which is tremendous news for Philadelphia. He was fantastic against Atlanta, logging five hits, three home runs and five RBI in 13 plate appearances. He helped shatter a tied ballgame and a 1-1 series tie with a three-run homer that opened up the scoring in the third.

Philadelphia went on to win 10-2.

"Really, in essence, when we're talking about pressure situations, he doesn't feel it," Phillies hitting coach Kevin Long said, per Jayson Stark of The Athletic. "He doesn't. He thrives."

Harper has thrived in the big moments thus far in the 2023 postseason. He should have plenty of chances to keep doing it against the Diamondbacks in the coming days.

With heavy hitters like Harper and Trea Turner—not to mention a strong pitching staff headlined by Zack Wheeler—the Phillies have all the talent needed to storm back into the World Series.

Most expect them to do exactly that. In a recent CBS panel, for example, all six MLB experts picked the Phillies to win this series.

Yes, Arizona is in the NLCS for the first time since 2017 and only the third time in franchise history. Yes, Philly is the higher-profile team. Yet, the Diamondbacks are still a very talented young team that just swept the Los Angeles Dodgers and are 5-0 in the postseason.

The Diamondbacks relied on sound, complementary baseball in the regular season but exploded offensively against L.A.

Arizona is hot, and if it can stay hot, it can upset Philadelphia. To do that, the Diamondbacks must stay aggressive, maintain an edge and continue embracing the underdog role that has been a postseason motivator.

"I think this team takes that very personally, and hopefully people are recognizing that you can't just walk all over us," manager Torey Lovullo said on October 9, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today. "We're a good baseball team. We do things right. We do it in a very uncommon way."

The Diamondbacks cannot afford to get complacent now.