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Chicago Cubs vs. Texas Rangers preview, Thursday 3/28, 3:05 CT

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Welcome to the 2019 regular season!

Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

We made it. It’s Opening Day! A long winter through very cold weather in the Chicago area, not to mention some trials and tribulations for our favorite team.

But now it’s the new season, filled with hope and anticipation, every one of the 30 MLB teams starting fresh with 0-0 records. The Cubs, we hope, will turn that 0-0 into something like 96-66 when the calendar turns to October and have another shot at winning a World Series.

For now, though, it’s time for fresh beginnings. Here are some Opening Day notes:

  • The Cubs have a 77-64-2 all-time Opening Day record: 48-40 when opening the season on the road and 29-24-2 when opening at home (includes the 2000 opener in Japan, which was considered a home game).
  • Today’s opener is the earliest by calendar date in franchise history, beating the previous mark by one day. Last season’s opener in Miami took place on March 29 (an 8-4 win), and the Cubs and Mets opened the 2000 campaign in Japan on March 29, a 5-3 victory.
  • This will be the fourth time the Cubs open a season in Texas, with all four in different ballparks. The Cubs lost to the then Houston Colt 45s at Colt Stadium in 1962 (the first game in the history of that franchise) and at the Astrodome in 1999. The Cubs beat the Astros at Minute Maid Park to open the 2009 season.
  • The Opening Day active roster includes five pitchers formerly with the Rangers organization: Yu Darvish, Carl Edwards Jr., Cole Hamels, Kyle Hendricks and Pedro Strop.
  • The Cubs are opening the 2019 campaign with a nine-game, 11-day trip through Arlington (three games), Atlanta (three games) and Milwaukee (three games) prior to the home opener April 8 vs. the Pirates. Last year they opened with a rain-shortened nine-game trip through Miami (2-2), Cincinnati (0-1 with a rainout) and Milwaukee (3-1).
  • Since the start of the 2015 season, the Cubs lead the N.L. and are second in the majors with 182 road victories and a .563 road winning percentage (182-141). Only the Astros have a better winning mark on the road in that span (184-140/.568).

Cubs lineup:

Rangers lineup:

Jon Lester vs. Mike Minor

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
MLB: Texas Rangers-Media Day Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Jon Lester did not have a good spring. In five Arizona starts he posted a 10.57 ERA, 1.891 WHIP and allowed five home runs in 15⅓ innings.

But we start over today, every player and team’s numbers are at zero, and I have full confidence that Lester will have another solid season for the Cubs. This will be Lester’s fifth year in a Cubs uniform.

Lester has not faced the Rangers since 2014, when he was with the Red Sox. That was also the last time he pitched in Globe Life Park, May 10, 2014. He threw seven innings that day and allowed three runs, with eight strikeouts. Obviously that was quite some time ago and with very different players than the Rangers lineup today. Current members of the Rangers are hitting .232 (22-for-95) against Jon with no home runs.

This is Jon’s eighth Opening Day start. He had four for the Red Sox and this is his fourth as a Cub. With this fourth OD start for the Cubs, Jon becomes the first lefthander ever to make that many OD starts for the team, surpassing Hippo Vaughn (1915, 1917, 1919).

Lastly, I will call your attention to the fact that Jon’s left ear is once again smooshed down by his cap in the photo above, and now you will never be able to unsee that.

Mike Minor was once a top prospect of the Braves, for whom he pitched five seasons (2010-14). He had shoulder surgery in 2015 and missed two seasons, threw one year as a reliever for the Royals in 2017 and was probably the best starter for the Rangers in 2018. Like Lester, he hasn’t faced his opponent today since 2014. Here is that boxscore, mainly for amusement value.

Only two current Cubs have ever faced Minor: Daniel Descalso (0-for-1) and Anthony Rizzo (2-for-9). So that has little predictive value.

Today’s game is on WGN.

Here is the complete MLB.com Mediacenter for today.

MLB.com Gameday

Baseball-reference.com game preview

SB Nation game preview

Please visit our SB Nation Rangers site Lone Star Ball. If you do go there to interact with Rangers fans, please be respectful, abide by their individual site rules and serve as a good representation of Cub fans in general and BCB in particular.

The 2019 Game Thread procedure will be the same as the one used in previous years. Here’s how it works.

You’ll find the game preview posted separately on the front page, two hours before game time (90 minutes for some early day games following night games).

At the same time, a StoryStream containing the preview will also post on the front page. The First Pitch Thread and all the overflow threads will be published in that stream, as well as the recap. The recap will also live on the front page as a separate post, and at the time I write the recap I will rename the stream “Cubs vs. (Team) (Day of Week) Game Threads” so you can go back and find every thread related to that particular game.

You will also be able to find the preview, First Pitch Thread, all the overflow threads and recap in the box marked “Chicago Cubs Game Threads” at the bottom of the front page (you can also find them in this section link). They will also appear in the game’s StoryStream as noted above.

The First Pitch thread will post at five minutes before game time, then an overflow thread at one hour, two hours and 2:45 after the scheduled game time.

Discuss amongst yourselves.