|5:05 PM PT6:05 PM MT7:05 PM CT8:05 PM ET20:05 ET0:05 GMT8:05 5:05 PM MST7:05 PM EST7:35 PM VEN4:05 UAE (+1)6:05 PM CT, March 30, 2019
Globe Life Park in Arlington, Arlington, Texas Attendance: 46,238
Darvish begins Years 2 with Cubs in familiar territory
Chicago Cubs at Texas Rangers
- The Cubs have posted four consecutive 90-win seasons for the second time in franchise history and the first time in over 100 years. They lead MLB with a .597 winning percentage since 2015; since that year, their pitchers rank second in ERA at 3.53 (Dodgers -- 3.48) and first in opponent batting average at .231.
- The Rangers went 67-95 in 2018, matching their 2014 campaign; they have not had a worse record since 1985, when they went 62-99. Combined with a 78-84 mark in 2017, it is the first time since 2007 and '08 that Texas has finished below .500 in successive years.
- Texas went 9-11 in interleague play in 2018; it was the Rangers' first losing season versus National League competition since 2006. The Cubs went 13-7 against the American League last season and are 40-20 in interleague play since 2016 -- second to only Boston's 46-14 mark.
- In each of the last four seasons, at least one Cub has finished in the top NL's top five in RBI: Javier Baez topped the NL with 111 last season. No Ranger has finished in the AL's top five in RBI since 2012, when Josh Hamilton was second with 128, and no Texas player has led the AL since 2008 (Hamilton -- 130).
- Jon Lester tied a career high with 11 road wins last season, going 11-2; his 2.87 road ERA was the lowest in his 13 seasons to date. Lester had a 2.55 ERA in interleague games last season after posting a 5.79 mark against AL clubs the previous year.
- With his Opening Day start for the Rangers, Mike Minor will pitch in the majors in consecutive seasons for the same team -- something he has not done since 2013 and '14 with Atlanta. Minor did his best work late last season, going 6-2, 2.97 with a .194 opponent batting average in his last 10 starts.
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After a day off Friday, the Chicago Cubs will look to start the season with two straight road wins against the Texas Rangers when they send Yu Darvish to the mound Saturday night to face his former club.
Darvish, now healthy after dealing with a blister on his right ring finger this spring, is poised to make his 2019 debut and his first regular-season appearance on the mound since May 20, 2018. The Cubs' ability to regain the National League Central Division crown and potentially get back to the World Series will largely depend on the productivity -- and health -- of their starting pitchers.
Chicago got a stellar Opening Day outing Thursday from Jon Lester, who gave up a pair of runs on four hits and two walks in six innings, striking out three in the process. Cubs manager Joe Maddon would be thrilled to see Darvish, the hard-throwing right-hander who Texas once thought would be its ace for years, match Lester's effort.
The Rangers eventually gave up on Darvish, sending him to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the 2017 trade deadline. Darvish struggled that postseason, and in February 2018, the Cubs outbid the Dodgers for the top pitching free agent on the market, handing him a six-year, $126 million contract to, in essence, replace the departed Jake Arrieta.
Darvish, whose win total of 16 in his rookie season with Texas has diminished in nearly every season since, was disappointing in the early portion of last season with erratic performances that rarely saw him get past the fifth inning. He earned just one win in eight starts before being lost for the season with a stress reaction on his right pitching elbow as well as a triceps strain.
Perhaps starting the season in familiar territory will give Darvish a boost as he tries to reach the lofty expectations set by his high price tag. He said he's thankful to get his first start of the season in Texas, where he has 31 wins at Globe Life Park in Arlington, sixth-most among Rangers pitchers in the two-decade-plus history of the ballpark.
"I may have grown up in Japan, but I feel like I grew up in Texas, too," Darvish told reporters recently. "This place is important to me. I'm so happy to be here for the opening series. ... This stadium has a lot of history, and I'm so happy to throw here in the opening series."
The Rangers will try make it a rude homecoming for Darvish. Texas seeks its first win of the season after getting blasted 12-4 by the Cubs on Thursday. Generating offense could be a recurring theme with the club, and new manager Chris Woodward quickly incited a minor controversy in the opener when he opted to sit left-hand-hitting Shin-Soo Choo, Texas' All-Star representative last year, and use righty Hunter Pence against Cubs starter Lester.
Choo wasn't happy with the decision.
"He wasn't happy, which I didn't expect him to be," Woodward told reporters. "I expected some pushback, I wanted some pushback. It just shows, 'I want to play every day.' That was the response I was looking for. But he was super-respectful and professional about it."
Choo is expected to make his 2019 debut Saturday night.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 29, 2019