The Cubs and Rangers play a couple of times every year in spring training, but we haven't seen them in the regular season since 2013, and both teams have made significant changes since then. So, I asked Adam Morris, manager of SB Nation's Rangers site Lone Star Ball, to tell us a bit about his team.
The Rangers roll into Chicago in much the same situation the Cubs are in -- with a big lead and having had a strong first half, but having limped into the All-Star Break due to a combination of regression and a grueling stretch of schedule.
Martin Perez, Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels will be starting the three games for Texas. Yu and Cole you probably know about already, though this will be Yu's first game back in the bigs since going on the disabled list with post-TJS shoulder soreness, and Hamels has been a little off in his previous few starts. Perez is a 25-year-old lefthander who throws a two-seamer 93-94 miles per hour and has a really good changeup, but struggles with his command and with missing bats. He generates a ton of ground balls and gets double plays, which is what he relies on to keep runs off the board.
The position players are all pretty much healthy right now. Prince Fielder's been awful overall in 2016, but has been better the last month or so, and will likely start at least a couple of games at first base. With the Cubs starting RHPs all three games, I'd expect the Rangers to stick with their usual Mazara/Desmond/Choo outfield, with Ryan Rua, who has been playing 1B or the OF against LHPs, on the bench as a pinch hitting option.
The bullpen has been a mix of really good and really bad this year, with "in the game with a lead" guys of Sam Dyson, Jake Diekman and Matt Bush being really good, and the middle relievers (other than Tony Barnette) being problematic. However, Keone Kela is being activated off the disabled list on Friday, which means that the Rangers will have another weapon out of the pen, and Shawn Tolleson, who lost his closer job early in the year, is looking better of late.
Overall, the Rangers have a better record than their run differential would indicate, but with the bullpen getting better and Darvish coming back, they're in a pretty solid position for the start of the second half.
The Cubs won two of three the last time these teams met, at Wrigley in 2013. The winning pitchers were Carlos Villanueva and Scott Feldman. In the only game the Rangers won, the save went to... Joe Nathan.
Friday: Kyle Hendricks, RHP (7-6, 2.55 ERA, 1.034 WHIP, 3.46 FIP) vs. Martin Perez, LHP (7-5, 3.85 ERA, 1.421 WHIP, 4.88 FIP)
Saturday: Jason Hammel, RHP (7-5, 3.46 ERA, 1.131 WHIP, 4.55 FIP) vs. Yu Darvish (2-0, 2.87 ERA, 1.149 WHIP, 2.73 FIP))
Sunday: John Lackey, RHP (7-5, 3.70 ERA, 1.106 WHIP, 3.78 FIP) vs. Cole Hamels (9-2, 3.21 ERA, 1.330 WHIP, 4.56 FIP)
Times & TV channels
Friday: 1:20 p.m. CT, CSN Chicago, MLB Network (outside Chicago and Dallas markets)
Saturday: 1:20 p.m. CT, ABC7 Chicago, MLB Network (outside Chicago and Dallas markets)
Sunday: 1:20 p.m. CT, ABC7 Chicago, TBS (outside the Chicago market)
The Cubs need to right the ship. The Cubs will right the ship and win two of three. It'll be interesting to see Darvish at Wrigley; he didn't pitch there in the Rangers series against the Cubs in 2013, his best season to date.
The New York Mets come to Wrigley Field for a three-game series beginning Monday night.