Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija, left, reacts as New York Mets' Ike Davis (29) runs the bases after hitting a two-run home run during the third inning of a baseball game on Saturday, July 7, 2012, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
On Deck will be here all season to provide you with everything you need to know (and a few things you don't) about every Rangers series during the 2013 season.
The Opponent: The Cubs are coming off two straight losses to the defending world champion San Francisco Giants and have gotten more from their pitching staff than their bats, much like the Rangers have this year.
Past 2013 Meetings: This is the first, and only, series between the two teams in 2013. The teams last met in 2010, when the Cubs won two of three games in Arlington.
Pitching Matchups: Tuesday — Derek Holland (0-1, 2.40 ERA) vs. Travis Wood (1-0, 1.46 ERA); Wednesday — Justin Grimm (0-0, 4.50) vs. Carlos Villanueva (0-0, 0.64); Thursday — Alexi Ogando (2-0, 1.08) vs. Jeff Samardzija (1-2, 2.75).
What's Hot: Well, not much in the way of the Rangers' offense is hot at the moment except for ol' Mr. Reliable, Lance Berkman, who probably will be nothing more than a late-game pinch-hitting option in this series unless he happens to get a start at first base. Ogando's numbers look better than he's pitched as he's struggled to get through six innings because of lofty pitch counts, while Derek Holland has pitched great in his first two outings but has gotten no run support and has yet to qualify for a win, most recently pitching eight innings and allowing two runs in a 2-0 loss to Tampa Bay.
Nate Schierholtz is the Cubs' hottest hitter right now, hitting at a .343 clip with two homers. The Cubs top three starters, who the Rangers will see in their three games, have been pretty tough led by Villanueva and strikeout machine Samardzija, who has 27 strikeouts and six walks in 19 2/3 innings this year.
What's Not: The Cubs' closer role is a complete disaster right now. Opening day closer Carlos Marmol struggled horribly in his first few outings and was demoted in favor of Kyuji Fujikawa. Now? Marmol is sporting a 7.94 ERA a save and a blown save, and Fujikawa has a 12.46 ERA with two saves and a blown one. Heck, even Shawn Camp got a shot, and he has an identical 12.46 ERA with a blown save.
For the Rangers, the bats are just downright cold right now. The center field platoon of Craig Gentry and Leonys Martin has yet to drive in a run, with Gentry hitting .211 and Martin hitting well below .200. David Murphy is hitting .160 in his first season as an everyday player, and Mitch Moreland is hitting .190 after it looked like he was ready to break through after a good spring. Even Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus are struggling at the plate, and against these three Cubs starters those struggles could continue.
Familiar Faces: Too bad the Rangers can't face Scott Feldman, who won a job in the Cubs rotation and is off to a slow start at 0-2 with a 6.00 ERA as opponents are hitting .308 against him. Going the other way, the Cubs fans will have two catchers to reacquaint themselves with. First, there's Geovany Soto, who was dealt to the Rangers at the trade deadline last season after earning NL Rookie of the Year honors for the Cubs in 2008. Then, there' A.J. Pierzynski, who is close to being public enemy No. 1 in Wrigley after spending most of his career on the other side of town with the White Sox and getting in an infamous fight against the Cubs back in the day. Expect to hear A.J. rained down on with boos when he's announced. Soto should get a warm welcome.