We are going to have a team from Texas in the World Series. That is a guarantee. It will either be the defending champion Houston Astros making it to the Series for the fifth time in seven years, or the Texas Rangers, who finished with a 90-72 record just as the Astros did, making it there for the first time since 2011.

Houston defeated the Minnesota Twins 3-1 in the AL Division Series to get to this point, while the Rangers blanked the Tampa Bay Rays 2-1 before sweeping the 101-win Baltimore Orioles.

The series begins Sunday with the Rangers having to go up against three-time Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander, who went 8-4 with the Astros after being acquired at midseason from the New York Mets. It will be the 37th career postseason appearance for the 40-year-old, while Texas starter Jordan Montgomery will be making his fifth playoff appearance.

The Astros are -140 favorites on the Betway board, and we will have to wait and see whether this series cracks next year’s version of the 10 best ALCS in Major League Baseball history.

When is the American League Championship Series?

Games 1 and 2 are Saturday and Sunday in Houston, Games 3, 4 and 5 are Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in Arlington, and Games 6 and 7 are Sunday, Oct. 22 and Monday, Oct. 23.

How many games are in the American League Championship Series?

It is a best-of-7 series. The first team to win four games goes to the World Series.

Who won the American League Championship Series last year?

The Houston Astros swept the New York Yankees 4-0 last season.

American League Championship Series History

The ALCS has been played since 1969. Up until then, the World Series pitted the team with the best record in the National League against the best team in the American League. The ALCS was best-of-five prior to 1985, when it switched to best-of-seven.

Ranking the Top 10 Best American League Championship Series of All Time

  1. 1985 American League Championship Series

Matchup: Kansas City Royals vs. Toronto Blue Jays
Series Result: Kansas City won 4-3

Major League Baseball decided to expand both leagues’ championship series from the best-of-five format used from 1969 to 1984 to the current best-of-seven format prior to the 1985 season, and the change had a pivotal effect on the outcome of the ALCS. The Blue Jays seemingly put a stranglehold on the 1985 ALCS with a 3-1 lead over the Royals after four games. However, Kansas City staged an improbable comeback, winning the next three games. In Game 7, Jim Sundberg drilled a high drive toward right field that hit the top of the fence and bounced high in the air, landing in play. All three runners, running on contact with two outs, scored easily and Sundberg’s three-run triple gave the Royals a 5-1 lead. 

  1. 2020 American League Championship Series

Matchup: Tampa Bay Devil Rays vs. Houston Astros
Closing MLB betting lines: Astros +135, Rays -167
Series Result: Tampa Bay won 4-3

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, all seven 2020 ALCS games were played in San Diego at Petco Park. The Astros became just the second team in MLB history to force a Game 7 after trailing a best-of-seven series 3–0. Houston had finished the regular season at 29–31 (.483), becoming the second American League team to reach the playoffs with a losing record. The Rays and Astros had not played each other during the regular season. Also due to the pandemic, the ALCS was played without fans in attendance. In Game 7, home runs by Randy Arozarena (his fourth of the series) and Mike Zunino made it 3-0 after two innings, and the Rays went on to win 4-2 for their first pennant since 2008. 

  1. 1972 American League Championship Series

Matchup: Detroit Tigers vs. Oakland Athletics
Series Result:
Oakland won 3-2

The Athletics had been without a pennant since 1931 when they took the field for this series’ deciding Game 5. Oakland was coming off a Game 4 in which it surrendered two 10th-inning runs that allowed Detroit to tie the series. In Game 5’s second inning, center fielder and cleanup hitter Reggie Jackson scored from third base as part of a double-steal, but he was injured on the play and was out for the season. His replacement, George Hendrick, scored the winning run in the fourth inning, and starter Vida Blue provided four innings of scoreless relief of Blue Moon Odom. The A's, who went on to win the World Series, won this ALCS despite a team batting average of .224. Superb pitching by Oakland had held the Tigers to an even lower .198 team batting average in the series.

  1. 2007 American League Championship Series

Matchup: Cleveland Indians vs. Boston Red Sox
Series Result: Boston won 4-3

The Red Sox came back from a 3-1 series deficit to defeat the Indians 4-3, outscoring them 30-5 over the final three games of the Series. Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling tossed six-hitters in Games 5 and 6, which the Sox won 7-1 and 12-2, and a pair of Japanese pitchers, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Okajima, excelled on the mound. In Game 7, Okajima and Jonathan Papelbon held the Indians hitless over the final five innings of what became an 11-2 victory when Boston tagged on six runs in the bottom of the eighth, ending Cleveland’s hopes of making the World Series for the first time in 10 years.

  1. 2017 American League Championship Series

Matchup: Houston Astros vs. New York Yankees
Series Result: Houston won 4-3

Before they went on to win the first World Series title in franchise history, the Astros trailed this series 3-2. But Justin Verlander threw seven shutout innings in Game 6, and the Yankees got an eighth-inning home run from Aaron Judge that proved to be their final run of the series. The Astros added a four-run eighth to win 7-1. In Game 7, Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers combined on a four-hit shutout, and the Astros advanced to their first World Series in 12 years, while becoming the first team to win pennants in both leagues.

  1. 2008 American League Championship Series

Matchup: Tampa Bay Rays vs. Boston Red Sox
Series Result: Tampa Bay won 4-3

This was the Rays' first appearance in the ALCS, while the Red Sox were making their fourth appearance in a span of six seasons and ninth overall. The two teams hit a combined 26 home runs -- a record for a league championship series. With a payroll of only $43.8 million, the second-lowest in the majors, Tampa Bay had entered the season facing 125-1 odds to win the AL pennant and 300-1 odds to win the World Series. In Game 7, the Red Sox had the bases loaded in the top of the eighth when reliever David Price struck out J.D. Drew on a checked swing. The Rays became only the second team to go to the World Series after posting the league’s worst record the year before.

  1. 2004 American League Championship Series Matchup: Boston vs. New York
    Series Result
    : Boston won 4-3

The Red Sox became the first (and to date only) team in MLB history to come back from a 3-0 deficit to win a best-of-seven series. Prior to the 2004 ALCS, no MLB team had so much as forced a Game 7 under those circumstances. What’s more, the Red Sox went on to sweep the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series, meaning they won their final seven postseason games. The Yankees led Game 4 by one run in the ninth inning before Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera blew a save, Curt Schilling pitched his famous bloody-sock game in Game 6, and in the second inning of Game 7, the Red Sox got a grand slam from Johnny Damon for a 6-0 lead on their way to ending the “Curse of the Bambino.”

  1. 1982 American League Championship Series

Matchup: California Angels vs. Milwaukee Brewers
Series Result: Milwaukee won 3-2

This series was noteworthy for being the first to feature a matchup between two "expansion" teams (i.e., franchises not included among the 16 operating in the major leagues for most of the first half of the 20th century). It also involved two teams that had never won a pennant, and marked the first time that a team came from a 2-0 deficit to win a best-of-5 series. In the bottom of the seventh inning of the clincher, Milwaukee loaded the bases on two singles and a walk before Cecil Cooper delivered the series-winning hit -- a two-run single that put the Brewers ahead 4-3 and sent them to the World Series for the only time in franchise history.

  1. 1977 American League Championship Series

Matchup: New York Yankees vs. Kansas City Royals
Series Result: New York won 3-2

In a stunning move, Yankees manager Billy Martin sat superstar Reggie Jackson for the final game because Jackson had gone 1-for-15 over the first four games of the series. In the deciding Game 5, Jackson was a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning and drove in a run with a single to cut the Yanks’ deficit to 3-2. Royals manager Whitey Herzog subbed in starting pitchers Dennis Leonard and Larry Gura in the ninth, and Gura gave up a game-tying single to Mickey Rivers before regular closer Mark Littell allowed a go-ahead sacrifice fly to Willie Randolph. Another run scored on a throwing error by George Brett, and the Yankees won 5-3.

  1. 1976 American League Championship Series

Matchup: New York Yankees vs. Kansas City Royals
Series Result: New York won 3-2

The teams split the first four games before a classic Game 5 at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees led 6-3 after six innings, but the Royals tied the game with three runs in the top of the eighth when George Brett hit reliever Grant Jackson’s second pitch just over the short right-field wall for a three-run homer that tied the game 6-6. But in the bottom of the ninth inning at 11:43 p.m., Chris Chambliss swung at Mark Littell’s first pitch and blasted it over the wall in right-center field. Thousands of fans stormed the field, and Chambliss could not get through them as he tried to round third base. He retreated to the dugout and later came back to try to touch home plate, but the fans had ripped it out of the ground and stolen it. The run counted anyway.

Parameters of Rankings

For these rankings, we mostly went with series that went the distance, whether they were best-of-five or best-of-seven, because in baseball and in other sports there is nothing quite as riveting as a winner-take-all game. Additional weight was added to any series that had multiple extra-inning games and/or brought about a result that fans had long awaited. When long-suffering baseball fans are no longer suffering, it boosts the all-time top-10 ranking of an ALCS that fans will forever remember. 

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