It's the opening series for the 2019 season. A moment where the players, coaches, and fans have anticipated nearly six months. The Rangers will host their last Open Day at Globe Life Park with the 2016 World Series Champion Chicago Cubs in town. The last time the Cubs were in Arlington was nine years ago. In that series in 2010, Mike Quade was the current Cubs' skipper. The Cubs are projected to hover around .500 this season (or at least according to PECOTA), while the Rangers are excited to start a season full of firsts, lasts, and new beginnings. Let 's break down this three – game series.
Thursday >>> LHP Jon Lester vs RHP Mike Minor
Mike Minor deservingly gets the node for the Rangers to start the season. Daniel Descalso has one at bat in his career against Minor. Other than that, Anthony Rizzo is the only Cub that is faced Minor (two for nine with four strikeouts). In his career facing the Cubs, Minor is a perfect 6-0 with a 4.46 ERA. Minor's six win against Chicago is more than any other MLB club. Though, in two of those six starts, Mike allowed six runs and has not hit the Cubs since 2014.
Meanwhile, Jon Lester will make his fifth consecutive opening day start for the Cubs. Opening Day will be Lester's sixth start at Globe Life Park. In his career, Lester hasn't lost in this building. Overall at GLP, Lester is 2-0 with a 3.90 ERA in thirty-two innings pitched (all of this as a member of the Boston Red Sox). Only five Rangers on the roster have at-bats against Lester (Elvis, Mathis, Cabrera, Pence and Choo). In Lester's 2018 opening day start at Miami, he received a no-decision as he could not get out of the fourth inning. Lester's line ended with seven hits, four runs, three walks, and two strikeouts.
Rangers Key to the Game :
I know it sounds cliché, but baserunners will dictate Opening Day for the Rangers. Jon Lester has a history of being allergic to throws to first. The Rangers projected lineup is Choo leading off followed by Odor. On a typical day, I feel great about that setup, but for Opening Day, I consider moving Delino to the top spot. Woody spoke about being more aggressive on the base paths, and this game will test that. Now Willson Contreras is no slouch behind the record. He managed to throw out 34.2% of base stealers in 2018. Contrary caught in more than one MLB qualified catcher last season. Also last year, Ian Happ homered on the first pitch of the game (sound familiar?). However, the Rangers won have to worry about Happ. He will start the season in AAA Iowa as reported by the Cubs this past Sunday
Saturday >>> RHP Yu Darvish vs RHP Edinson Vólquez
Vólquez is one of three Rangers starters returning from Tommy John surgery. Edinson has not seen any regular-season action on the mound since July 5th, 2017 against the Cardinals. At the time, he was pitching for the Miami Marlins. In his career against the Cubs, Volquez is 8-0 with a 3.10 ERA. His eight wins tie the most against any club (Brewers). Seven current Cubs hitters have history against Edinson (Baez, Bryant, Contreras, Rizzo, Heyward, Descalso, and Zobrist). What is alarming is that Violence has allowed twelve walks in five-plate appearances against these guys (combined fifty-three overalls).
Yu Darvish comes back to Arlington in his first career regular-season start against the Rangers. Last season, Darvish started only eight games went 1-3 with a 4.95 ERA. Twenty-one batters in forty innings last year. Only four current Rangers have bats against Yu (Cabrera, Pence, Choo, and Mathis). The question for the Cubs is how long Darvish lasts in this game. This spring, Yu has dealt with a blister issue. Therefore, it could be a short outing for Darvish on Saturday.
Rangers Key to the Game:
The two "p" are key against Darvish, patience, and power. In his Rangers career, Darvish allowed 85 home runs in 782.2 innings. Most of that damage has come against left-handed hitters (52 or his 85). This will benefit guys like Gallo, Mazara, Guzman, Odor, and Choo who are all left-handed power threats in the Rangers lineup. Yu’s control has also been an issue in his career. Last year, the Rangers walked the fourth most in the AL. If the Rangers can work the count, inflate the pitch count, and take advantage of good pitches to hit, fans can see a rude welcome from the Rangers offense. On the other side, a methodical Vólquez with pinpoint control will be a key. Lance Lynn
Lance Lynn is a familiar foe in the Chicago Cubs. Lynn spent six seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals before moving to the Twins organization last season. In over 100 innings and twenty games against the Cubs, Lynn is 6-7 with a 4.62 ERA. Lance's latest start against the Cubs was as a twins pitcher on July 1st, and it was his worst start against the Cubbies. Lynn was able to get out of the second inning, allowed seven runs, five hits, and walked three in the Twins 11-10 loss at Wrigley. Rizzo has given Lynn the most problems. Anthony is a career 12 for 34 with nine RBIs and five doubles and two home runs. While Kris Bryant has a homer against Lynn, he is a career 3 for 14 with seven strikeouts lifetime against Lance.
Cole Hamels comes back to Arlington for the first time since Mid-July. After the Rangers / Cubs trade, Cole went on a tirade on the moon. Hamels went 4-3 with a 2.36 ERA down the stretch for the Cubbies. Only three Rangers have history against Hamels. Asdrubal Cabrera is 3 for 12 with a homer in his career against Hamels while Jeff Mathis is 0 for 13 with eight strikeouts. Hunter Pence has the most experience against Hamels. In his career, Pence is 8 for 31 with two doubles, five RBIs, and two are strikeouts. Cole Hamels has one career start against the Rangers. On June 28th, 2008 with the Phillies, Hamels won seven innings, four runs six hits and eight strikeouts. That was Cole's third season in the big leagues
Rangers Key to the Game:
Cole Hamels number one villain is the home run ball. Hamels allowed 23 home runs in 114 innings in 2018 with the Rangers. Cole allowed 45 home runs in 280 innings overall at Globe Life Park (one of those was in that 2008 start). If the Rangers can elevate Hamels' pitches and sneak it over the wall, then the Rangers offense can show some kicks. That being said, Cole has only allowed 55 home runs to right handed batters in his career. Hamels will be aggressive to start each at bat; Therefore, the Rangers will counter with an aggressive approach at the record. If Hunter Pence does not start on opening day, look for Pence in the lineup on Sunday. Remember, Hamels allowed home run to start 2018 to Astros' George Springer.
Final Note: The Cubs statistically had the second best bullpen last season behind the Astros (3.35 for Chicago). The Rangers will miss Cubs infielder Addison Russell due to a suspension handed by MLB. The suspension is due to violating MLB's domestic abuse policy back in September or 2018, loading forty games. Russell is eligible to return in May. In the meantime, the Cubs will shift Javy Baez to short and place either Ben Zobrist or Daniel Descalso at second for the time being. I think the Rangers will take the game in this series, but I believe the Cubs will win the series 2-1.