The Cubs’ record stood at 46-20 as of June 19th, but from then on they struggled to find wins and probably welcomed the All-Star break as a welcome respite from a tough month of July. They finished 1-6 in their last seven series, including losses to bottom feeders like the Reds and Braves and two crushing defeats to their division rival Pirates. Chicago went 7-15 in its final 22 games. The Cubs can’t afford to continue this losing streak if they hope to overcome Pittsburgh and St. Louis to win their division. Jake Arrieta has been masterful yet again this season, but the rest of the Cubs’ rotation, like Lackey, Lester, and Hendricks, need to pick up their play to even get close to matching Arrieta’s 2.68 ERA and 12-4 record.
Texas came on strong in June, cementing itself as a serious contender and almost certainly a playoff team, but also struggled in July and came stumbling into the All-Star break. Backed by strong hitters like Adrian Beltre, Ian Desmond, and Shin-Soo Choo, ace Cole Hamels has continued to thrive in Texas for a second straight year. The Rangers finished 20-8 in June, defeating quality teams along the way like the Mariners, Cardinals, and the Red Sox. However, they went 3-7 in July, confirming the theory that they really need another great pitcher like the injured Yu Darvish in their rotation if they're to be an elite team.
Cole Hamels will take the mound for the Rangers on Sunday, and he’s actually performed much better on the road this season than in Arlington. He owns a 2.09 ERA and 6-1 record in other stadiums compared to a 4.53 ERA and 3-1 mark at Rangers Ballpark. He’s allowed only a .202 batting average against lefties, so that number should favor him in some vital battles against studs like Ben Zobrist and Anthony Rizzo. The Rangers’ bats are as good as any other in the league, and they've backed Hamels with plenty of run support this season.
Chicago will send out journeyman John Lackey to face Texas this weekend. He is currently sporting a modest 3.70 ERA and 7-5 record at the season’s halfway point. Unlike Hamels, his best numbers have come at home, where he holds a 4-3 record and 2.60 ERA. However, Lackey has given up an uncharacteristically high 20 runs in his last four starts. This stretch including an outing in which he allowed six runs in six innings to a mediocre Reds team in a 9-5 home loss. The Cubs return to the diamond in the middle of a rough patch, and their pitcher’s woes won’t help much either.
- Sports.net’s top tip: Hamels is in much better form than Lackey here, and the Rangers have been a more dependable offensive team this season too. You may want to bet on Texas to win 7-2.