Cubs @ Rangers – Series Preview (March 28-31): TV and Game Info, Starting Pitchers, Insights
After a long offseason that went quite a bit differently than many had imagined it might, the Cubs are ready to take on the Rangers to open the 2019 season. With the Rangers set to move into a state-of-the-art, climate controlled ballpark next season, this is probably the last chance the Cubs will have to make memories at the stadium formerly known as the Ballpark in Arlington.
Barring some real magic this series or the unlikely event of a Cubs-Rangers World Series, it’s a pretty safe bet that Sammy Sosa’s 600th home run, hit against the Cubs in 2007, will stand out as the Cubs’ biggest (only?) moment of note in this park in an interleague series without much fanfare.
As for the teams taking the field in 2019, the Cubs and Rangers will enter the season with disparate expectations.
A last place team in 2018, the Rangers enter 2019 with no real aspirations of contending. For a team that won 90+ games five times since 2010, it’s a somewhat unfamiliar position. However, after trading Cole Hamels to the Cubs last year, the retirement of Adrián Beltré, and the trade of infielder Jurickson Profar this offseason, the Rangers have lost many of the pieces that contributed to their recent success.
The Rangers do still have some talent on their roster, though. Their lineup lacks a true impact bat, but contains a couple of competent hitters in Joey Gallo and Shin-Soo Choo, plus a couple more roughly league average hitters with power, including Rougned Odor and Nomar Mazara.
The Rangers’ rotation is definitively not a strength, but opening day starter Mike Minor was somewhat effective last year, producing to the tune of 2.5 fWAR and a FIP that wasn’t far off from Jon Lester’s. Edinson Vólquez and Lance Lynn follow Minor in what would’ve been an excellent one-two punch in 2014 but is considerably less intimidating today.
Despite an offseason that wasn’t nearly as active as many had hoped, the Cubs are entering the season hoping to recapture the National League Central crown after just narrowly failing to win it for the third consecutive season in 2018. Some are higher on their chances of doing so than others.
The Cubs team that won 95 games in 2018 will largely be the same as the team that will take the field in 2019. They are hoping that healthier campaigns from Kris Bryant and Yu Darvish and tinkering around the edges, such as adding reliever Brad Brach and versatile infielder Daniel Descalso, will be enough to regain the division title.
With most projections pegging the Rangers as a last-place team this year, they could be the perfect opponent to allow the Cubs the kind of hot start they’ll need to win a much stronger NL Central in 2019.
Game Time and Broadcast Info
- Thursday, March 28 at 3:05pm CT on WGN
- Saturday, March 30 at 7:05pm CT on NBC Sports Chicago
- Sunday, March 31 at 3:05pm CT on NBC Sports Chicago and ESPN (out-of-market only)
Starting Pitchers (2018 statistics)
*Vólquez did not pitch in 2018 due to Tommy John surgery, 2017 statistics listed.
What to Watch For
- There are quite a few Cubs who were once part of the Rangers organization and vice versa. Jesse Chavez, Luke Farrell, and Drew Smyly are Rangers who were Cubs while Tony Barnette, Darvish, Carl Edwards Jr., Hamels, Kyle Hendricks, and Pedro Strop are Cubs who were Rangers. Jason Hammel would’ve been on the list too had he not retired shortly before the start of the season.
- Globe Life Park in Arlington is known as one of the most hitter-friendly environments in baseball, with Baseball Reference rating it 16 percent more favorable to hitters than the average ballpark in 2018. For reference, Coors Field was 19 percent more favorable to hitters in 2018. This will be mitigated somewhat by cooler March temperatures, but it remains a tempting place to tee off for Anthony Rizzo, Bryant, and other Cubs sluggers.
- Albert Almora Jr. had a successful spring training against both right- and left-handed pitching. With Ian Happ starting the season in Triple-A Iowa, Almora will probably get his first chance to start against one or both of Rangers righties this weekend. He’s expected to get a shot at leading off against lefties, but it’ll be interesting to see where he fits into the lineup against righties.
- The Cubs are 8-7 all time against the Rangers and 3-3 in Texas. The winner of this series will get eternal bragging rights of winning the all time Cubs-Rangers series in this ballpark. The stakes just don’t get much higher than this, folks.