Rangers-Cubs Preview

The Associated Press

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.

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