Rangers-Cubs Preview

The Texas Rangers are getting excellent production from their

pitchers.

That’s certainly not the case at the plate, and they may be

without their leading hitter for the next few games.

With Lance Berkman expected to be relegated to the bench during

interleague play, the Rangers open a three-game series Tuesday

night against the Chicago Cubs.

Texas (8-5) reached the postseason for three straight years

largely on the strength of its offense, which led the majors over

that span with a .277 average while ranking among the leaders with

572 homers and 5.0 runs per game.

Over the same stretch, the Rangers had a 3.90 ERA.

The staff is showing dramatic improvement this year, compiling a

2.92 ERA and limiting opponents to a .220 average. However, the

team is hitting just .251 and averaging 3.8 runs.

“Our pitching staff has done a great job as a whole. They’ve

kept us in ball games and helped us get off to a pretty good

start,” said left fielder David Murphy, who is hitting .160 after

batting .304 last year. “Our offense definitely needs to get in

gear sooner than later.”

That didn’t happen Sunday, when the Rangers were held to six

hits in a 4-3 loss at Seattle. They hit .214 and scored 11 runs in

the series, settling for a four-game split.

Berkman leads the team with a .389 average while collecting

eight RBIs. The 37-year-old designated hitter, though, likely will

be limited to pinch-hitting duty, as Texas visits Wrigley Field for

the first time since winning two of three June 8-20, 2002.

“The cold weather is not too kind to him right now,” manager Ron

Washington told the team’s official website. “We want to make sure

his knees continue to accept the pounding that it’s taking. It’s a

process right now.”

Washington will give the ball to Derek Holland (0-1, 2.40 ERA),

who has been backed by two total runs while limiting opponents to

four with a .208 average in 15 innings over two starts.

The left-hander didn’t get any support Wednesday in a 2-0 loss

to Tampa Bay, as he yielded two runs and five hits in eight

innings.

Holland hasn’t fared well during interleague play, going 1-5

with a 5.96 ERA in nine starts, losing each of his last three

behind a 10.03 ERA. He didn’t get a decision in his only meeting

with the Cubs (4-8) on May 22, 2010, when he allowed two earned

runs and two homers in six innings of a 5-4 home defeat.

The Rangers went 14-4 in interleague play last year, including

7-2 on the road.

Chicago, which lost seven of nine to AL opponents at Wrigley in

2012, dropped to 2-4 on this nine-game homestand with a 10-7,

10-inning loss to San Francisco on Sunday.

Travis Wood (1-0, 1.46) may empathize with Holland since he’s

also been backed by two total runs of support through two

starts.

The left-hander did not receive a decision last Tuesday in a 6-3

win over Milwaukee, allowing three runs – all in the second inning

– before settling down and leaving with one out in the seventh.

“I have been fortunate to throw the ball well in my last two

outings,” said Wood, who is 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in five career

interleague starts.

Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro is hitting .368 with three

doubles, two homers and five RBIs over the last eight games,

including a 3-for-5 performance with a two-run shot Sunday.

His only hit in three at-bats against Holland was a solo

homer.