It has been a long time since Rangers fans have had a chance to see their team play in historic Wrigley Field, eleven years to be exact. The team was slightly different back then, managed by Jerry Narron and boasting a roster including Kenny Rogers and Chan Ho Park on the mound and “Pudge” Rodriguez, Rafael Palmeiro and Kevin Mench swinging the bats. It was a Rangers team that was based solely on out hitting the opponent, which they did to the Cubs taking two out of three.
The 2013 incarnation of the Texas Rangers, however is very different, even from the 2012 Rangers. No Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli or Michael Young. The Rangers make their way to Chicago with an eight and five record, good enough for second in the American League West behind Oakland. The
pitching through the first twelve games has been very good, boasting the second lowest ERA in the American League coming into this series. The Cubs will have their hands full with Derek Holland going tonight, Justin Grimm tomorrow and Alexi Ogando Thursday. We all know what to expect from Derek and Alexi, and we all hope that Grimm will do enough against the Cubs lineup to keep the Rangers in the game. We have seen again and again that if the starters can just keep the Rangers in the game the bull pen will get the job done from there. Joe Ortiz has been the most impressive reliever in my opinion so far this season, and Joe Nathan, even with the gift he received against the Rays for his three-hundredth save, has been almost lights out. I have trust in the whole pen at the moment, and I hope they don’t do anything in Chicago to ruin my trust.
The Rangers offense is better than they have played so far this season, with players like David Murphy and Mitch Moreland off to a very bad start. Lance Berkman is one of the Rangers off to a hot start, but he will have to sit most of the series due to the weather (his knees have problems in the cold weather) and the fact that there is no designated hitter in National League Parks. It will take guys like Ian and Elvis getting on base with A.J. Pierzynski and Adrian Beltre doing their job and hitting well with runners in scoring position, something the Rangers have also not been good at so far in 2013. The platoon of Leyons Martin and Craig Gentry seems to be working out alright so far, as those two guys seem to be playing their best when they get the chance on the field. The Cubs do not appear to be a very good team this season, and this is one of those series that the Rangers need to win if not sweep. Oakland is showing no signs of slowing down at the moment and the Angels are not going to be at the bottom of the division forever, we all know that.
The fact that the series is being played in Wrigley gives the Cubs a slight
advantage. Travis Wood will get the call for game one of the series and he is off to a good start for the Cubs, posting and ERA sub two. With Derek Holland batting in place of Lance Berkman, runs on both sides might be at a premium tonight. Wood features a four seam fastball, a cutter, slider and a change up (source). The Rangers in general do not really like cutter pitchers. So we may be in for another low scoring affair tonight. Wednesday the Rangers will see Carlos Villanueva, the seasoned veteran who has a career ERA above four. He is off to a good start this season, but I just have this funny feeling that the Rangers are going to be able to hit him. I have nothing technical for you, just a feeling. (real professional, right?) Thursday the Rangers get Jeff Samardzija, a career Cubbie with an ERA right at four. He is also off to a good start this season but in 2012 he gave up a career high in homeruns, something that the Rangers should be able to do if their offense will start clicking.
The Cubs offense is not one to be afraid of overall, having the third lowest batting average in the National League going into this series, but they do have some names to look out for like former Ranger Alfanso Soriano. I believe that Ranger pitching will be able to dominate the Cubs offense for the most part and the Cubs will not be able to score many runs against the Rangers. I am also hoping that the bats of the Rangers finally decide to come alive and begin a streak of scoring many more runs per game than we have seen so far, otherwise this could wind up being a painful series to watch in the windy city.