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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Rangers series preview

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Another season is about to begin!

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

This is the second time in Cubs history that they will open the season on the road against an American League West team.

The previous time was 2016 when they opened in Anaheim against the Angels. They swept that series, and of course you know how that season ended.

For more on the Rangers, I asked Adam Morris, manager of our SB Nation Rangers site Lone Star Ball, to tell us a little about his team.

Welcome to Arlington, Cubs fans. Your team is spending Opening Day at Globe Life Park, in what will be its final season as home for the Rangers, as a retractable roof stadium is being built to open in 2020.

After all almost decade-long run of contention, the Rangers are in the midst of a rebuild, and even the most optimistic of fans aren’t expecting more than maybe 75 wins this season. If the Rangers take a step forward it will likely be due in large part to their quartet of young power-hitting position players, Joey Gallo, Rougned Odor, Nomar Mazara and Ronald Guzman. While everyone knows the first three, Guzman has spent the offseason working on adjustments to translate his natural raw power more into game situations, and the early results his spring have been promising.

On the pitching side, the Cubs will face Mike Minor, Lance Lynn and Edinson Volquez as starters. Minor had a solid 2018 for Texas in his return to the rotation after a year in the Kansas City pen, and Lynn was inked this offseason to give the Rangers a steady vet to eat innings. In between is Volquez, who was put there because the Rangers didn’t want their three pitchers coming off TJS (Volquez, Shelby Miller and Drew Smyly) all lined up in a row. Volquez was signed to a two year minor league deal after the 2017 season, which ended prematurely due to TJS, and after rehabbing in 2018, he appears to be healthy and is throwing in the mid-90s.

The guy in the pen to keep an eye on is closer Jose Leclerc. He emerged last year as one of the best relievers in the league, with one of the highest spin rates in baseball in his fastball and improved command that allowed him to dominate. He was signed to a long-term extension in spring training.

Fun fact

Oddly enough, the last time these two teams met in 2016, two of the three pitchers for the Rangers were... Yu Darvish and Cole Hamels. The Cubs got just two hits off Darvish in 4⅓ innings and he struck out nine, but the Cubs won 3-1 July 16, 2016. Hamels threw eight innings and allowed one unearned run July 17, 2016 in defeating the Cubs.

Pitching matchups (numbers are 2018 final statistics)

Thursday: Jon Lester, LHP (18-6, 3.32 ERA, 1.310 WHIP, 4.39 FIP) vs. Mike Minor, LHP (12-8, 4.18 ERA, 1.121 WHIP, 4.43 FIP)

Saturday: Yu Darvish, RHP (1-3, 4.95 ERA, 1.425 WHIP, 4.86 FIP) vs. Edinson Volquez, RHP (did not pitch in 2018)

Sunday: Cole Hamels, LHP (9-12, 3.78 ERA, 1.264 WHIP, 4.49 FIP) vs. Lance Lynn, RHP (10-10, 4.77 ERA, 1.526 WHIP, 3.84 FIP)

Times & TV channels

Thursday: 3:05 p.m. CT, WGN

Saturday: 7:05 p.m. CT, NBC Sports Chicago

Sunday: 3:05 p.m. CT, NBC Sports Chicago, ESPN (outside the Chicago and Dallas markets)

Prediction

As noted by Adam Morris, the Rangers are in a rebuild, and the Cubs have handled these three starting pitchers well in the past. For whatever it’s worth (admittedly, not much), the Rangers had a 13-17 spring record and the second-worst run differential in the Cactus League (-34) while the Cubs finished spring 19-13, with 237 runs scored and the best run differential of any team in baseball, +48. Two of three, meatloaf to begin the 2019 season.

Up next

The Cubs travel to Atlanta for a three-game series against the Braves beginning Monday evening. The Monday game is the Braves’ home opener.

Poll

How many games will the Cubs win against the Rangers?

This poll is closed

  • 50%
    3
    (185 votes)
  • 43%
    2
    (161 votes)
  • 2%
    1
    (9 votes)
  • 3%
    0
    (12 votes)
367 votes total Vote Now