DATES & TIMES: Thursday 3:05, Saturday 7:05, Sunday 3:05
TV: WGN Thursday, NBCSN Chicago Saturday and Sunday
NILL ESCAPEES: Lone Star Ball
CUBS PROBABLE LINEUP
Ben Zobrist – 2B
Kris Bryant – 3B
Anthony Rizzo – 1B
Javier Baez – SS
Kyle Schwarber – LF
Jason Heyward – RF
Albert Almora Jr. – CF
David Bote – DH
RANGERS PROBABLE LINEUP
Shin-Soo Choo – DH
Rougned Odor – 2B
Elvis Andrus – SS
Nomar Mazara – RF
Joey Gallo – LF
Asdrubal Cabrera – 3B
Ronald Guzman – 1B
Jeff Mathis – C
Delino Deshields Jr. – CF
At least the offseason is over.
It’s been a long few months for Cubs fans. Not only did they have to sit and stew over two consecutive losses at home to end the season with two runs scored total (must be managed by Jeremy Colliton), but then their owner went and sat on the front office’s signing hands for months. So the relief that they’ll actually run out of the dugout is immeasurable today, if only to not see Tom Ricketts’s fucking face again. Let’s line it up and play.
The narratives are well known, but the one that will get overplayed from here on out is the status of Joe Maddon. Maddon didn’t turn out to be as innovative as we thought. He never shuts up even though he has little to say. The gimmicks and quirks have run a little dry. On the other hand, he took a beat up team last year through 43-straight days or whatever it ended up being and humped them (there’s an image for you) to 95 wins. We might be bored of all the lights and whistles, but the players aren’t and that’s what matters. Just don’t turn Steve Cishek into silly puddy again.
Another one Cubs fans might become hyper aware of is Opening Day starter Jon Lester and his decline. Lester was able to dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge his way through the season last year, but his strikeout-rate sank, his hard-contact against rose, and he basically had his defense to thank for it all. And now he’s 35. The BABIP Dragon can be a cruel foe. You won’t find a grindy-er guy than Lester who will sit on the corners no matter what, and maybe he’s got one last surge in him to be the guy he’s been. He’s certainly a bellwether on this team, and the rotation is buffeted enough that it can probably survive if he’s just huckin’ dead fish out there by July.
The other big story of the series is Yu Darvish returning to the Cubs and returning to Texas. A lot of where the Cubs go hinges on what Darvish can provide, as he’s something of a new acquisition this season. If he stays healthy. Which is a huge if, as you’re talking about a guy who hasn’t seen 200 innings since 2013 and is coming off an injury-ruined campaign. Spring training was fun, he looks good, but everyone looks good until they get hit. It feels boom-or-bust.
Other than that, the lineup could still be doomsday gun. The bullpen will be an adventure for a bit, until Pedro Strop comes in and everything will be fine. And remember, Carl Edwards Jr. is great until August. Worry about it then.
To the Rangers, who somehow are in the last year of their stay in Arlington because it’s like 18-years-old and that’s totally outdated and fuck you that’s why. Fuckin’ Texas. Anyway, moving into a new stadium in the middle of a rebuild is always a choice, but here we are. The Rangers are gonna be bad, the Angels, A’s, and Astros especially are going to eat their innards on the highway all year, and it’s going to be fucking hot as balls.
The rotation is reclamation projects galore, with Shelby Miller, Drew Smyly, and Lance Lynn populating it. Hell, Mike Minor, the starter today, is one. The hope is probably to get these guys looking like something before the deadline and flogging them for whatever they can scrape off the pavement. You don’t make long-term plans around Lance Lynn, in the same vein as friends and salad and such.
In the lineup, only Nomar Mazara–who seriously looks like he’s about to destroy a small town every time he steps into the box–and Ronald Guzman figure to be around when the Rangers matter again. Guzman doesn’t project to be a star, and Mazara has had three goes at the American League without punching through. So clock’s ticking. This is the first year Elvis Andrus will look to his right and not see Adrian Beltre, so he might spend the whole year in black and playing Smiths records. Which we all should when it comes to the absence of Beltre. Rougned Odor and Joey Gallo are here for your strikeouts, home runs, and Cousin Vinny jokes.
Hey Hey Holy Mackerel…