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On The Horizon: Cubs vs. Rays series preview

It’s the Cubs’ first interleague series of 2022.

Photo by Mike Carlson/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Rays have been a consistently good team since they first made the postseason under Joe Maddon in 2008. Since then, they’ve been in two World Series and made seven playoff appearances, including each of the last three years.

For more on the Rays, here’s Danny Russell, managing editor of our SB Nation Rays site DRays Bay.

The Rays are picking up the 2022 season essentially where last year left off, with one key difference: all three recent All-Star hitters are gone. OF/DH Austin Meadows and UTIL Joey Wendle have been traded for near MLB-ready prospects, and DH Nelson Cruz was not retained. The Rays made a run at some free agents that could move the needle — and as Rays GM Peter Bendix told us it would have taken a big name to make a difference, like Freddie Freeman — but came up empty handed, instead trusting the team’s high floor of pitching and defense can replicate last year’s 100-win season.

In terms of roster construction, Wendle will be replaced by prospect Taylor Walls (who is a truly elite defender), Meadows is replaced by prospect Josh Lowe (he’s got strong plate discipline for a rookie), and the DH slot will now just be a method to rest players, at least until the trade deadline when the Rays can think about making a splash all over again — Lord knows they have the prospect capital.

If you paid close attention to the Rays, there are a couple other changes you might notice. The pitching side has a lot of injured players still injured (Glasnow, Anderson, Fairbanks), swaps relievers Collin McHugh for former Cub Brooks Raley, and starter Michael Wacha for Corey Kluber. Finally, RHH OF/1B Jordan Luplow has been swapped for similar RHH OF/1B Harold Ramirez (who has a bit more power and a little less defense). Ramirez was in Cubs camp this spring for all of 24 hours, as y’all had acquired his rights from Cleveland, and then moved him to the Rays once his visa issues cleared. Thanks for that!

This is a very good Rays team in a very competitive division. There’s not many famous names, but the young guns like SS Wander Franco, OF Randy Arozarena (ROY), and SP Shane McClanahan could and should be household names in the near future.

Fun fact

The Cubs are 5-8 all time against the Rays, 4-4 at Wrigley and 1-4 at the Trop. The teams split four games the last time they met in 2017, going 1-1 in each park. Just four Cubs remain from that 2017 team: Kyle Hendricks, Willson Contreras, Jason Heyward and Ian Happ. The only Rays players left from 2017 are Kevin Kiermaier (whose brother Dan is the Cubs head groundskeeper) and Andrew Kittredge.

Fun fact 2: The Rays are spending an entire week in Chicago. They just wrapped up a series on the South Side against the White Sox and lost two of three there, ending a four-game losing streak with a win Sunday.

Pitching matchups

Monday: Kyle Hendricks, RHP (0-1, 7.00 ERA, 2.111 WHIP, 4.64 FIP) vs. Shane McClanahan, LHP (0-1, 3.00 ERA, 1.222 WHIP, 3.18 FIP)

Tuesday: Justin Steele, LHP (1-0, 1.93 ERA, 1.286 WHIP, 2.11 FIP) vs. TBD

Wednesday: Marcus Stroman, RHP (0-1, 6.00 ERA, 1.333 WHIP, 5.74 FIP) vs. Drew Rasmussen, RHP (0-1, 5.00 ERA, 1.000 WHIP, 5.51 FIP)

Note on Tuesday’s Rays starter: Per Rays beat writer Marc Topkin, the Rays are likely going to use lefthander Josh Fleming (1-1, 4.05 ERA, 1.650 WHIP, 0.22 FIP) as either the starter or as the pitcher following an opener, though officially their Tuesday starter is TBD.

Times & TV channels

Monday: 6:40 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network

Tuesday: 6:40 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network

Wednesday: 6:40 p.m. CT, Marquee Sports Network

Prediction

This will be a tough series, but the Cubs have their top starters going in two of these games (presuming you still consider Hendricks to be a “top” starter). Also, the Cubs are 3-0 so far against LH starters, and the Rays have two of those going in this series (assuming Fleming goes Tuesday), which is why I’m going to pick the Cubs in a bit of an upset to win two of three.

Up next

The Cubs host the Pirates in a four-game series at Wrigley Field beginning Thursday evening.

Poll

How many games will the Cubs win against the Rays?

This poll is closed

  • 7%
    3
    (19 votes)
  • 52%
    2
    (131 votes)
  • 36%
    1
    (91 votes)
  • 3%
    0
    (10 votes)
251 votes total Vote Now