The Cubs hosted the Rangers for a preview of the season opener (in 14 days!) Thursday afternoon at Sloan Park in Mesa. The home team featured a strong lineup that we could see again in Arlington, with Anthony Rizzo at DH and Victor Caratini taking his spot at first serving as the main changes. Yu Darvish took the mound against his former team for his third start of the preseason.
The four-time All-Star for the Rangers settled down after struggling to command his fastball in the 1st inning. With a fastball sitting in the mid-90’s and great control of his slider, Darvish struck out five through four innings as he continues to come back from an injury-shortened 2018.
After both teams took advantage of some wild pitching in the 1st inning, a pitchers’ duel broke out. Ryan Court eventually broke the tie in the bottom of the 8th with a sacrifice fly to right field, which proved to be the difference in the tight matchup. (Box score)
Why the Cubs Won
Cubs pitching staff dominated the Rangers lineup throughout the afternoon, holding them to four hits while striking out 11.
Zack Short took advantage of his speed after navigating a one-out walk in the 8th inning. The promising shortstop stole second base and then took third on the subsequent throwing error. This allowed him to tag up and score on a short fly to right.
Stats That Matter
- A lineup of traditional Cubs starters struggled throughout the afternoon, only mustering three singles.
- Jason Heyward continued his slump with another 0-for-3 afternoon, bringing his spring batting average down to .150.
- James Norwood came in to close the game out this afternoon and brought the heat, regularly hitting 98 mph. The flamethrower could prove to be a wild card for a bullpen with so many questions at the moment.
The Cubs offense cooled off significantly from the power surge Wednesday night, but the pitching staff picked up the slack. With two weeks until Opening Day, the team is entering the next phase of preparation, getting starters more reps, finalizing the bullpen spots, and providing more consistent playing time for the starting lineup.
The Cubs take visit the crosstown rival White Sox, with Cole Hamels taking the mound against Lucas Giolito. Friday’s matchup begins at 3:05pm CT and will be televised on WGN, though it will be a White Sox broadcast. Listen to the Cubs radio broadcast on 670 The Score or on MLB.com.