Rangers embracing big Opening Day with visiting World Series champ, rival Astros

Cole Hamels.jpg

In less than 18 hours, the Texas Rangers 2018 season will begin for the second-to-last time at Globe Life Park in Arlington.

But this year, the annual pilgrimage of Ranger fans back to home base is even more special. It's to watch them face in-state and division rival Houston Astros -- who also just happen to be the defending World Series Champions.

This Texas team has a lot to prove this year, with key pieces like Adrian Beltre, Rougned Odor, Joey Gallo, and Cole Hamels having to assert themselves early in often while the rest of the rotation -- especially its bullpen -- get figured out.

Cole Hamels will start for Texas, making this Opening Day even bigger with his season debut coming in a match-up coming against Justin Verlander who shined in the World Series against the Dodgers.

Time now to forget about 2017. It was a season both the team and fans alike don't want to remember -- but what better way to lose that hangover of disappointment, than to knock off the defending champs AND your division rival?

"There is definitely some extra motivation," Rangers Manager Jeff Banister told the media on Wednesday.

"They are the reigning World Series champions and our guys know that -- they'll be reminded of that," he said. "They see it on ESPN or MLB to even our local media but they [Astros] certainly proved that last year and it showed by their record and the end result. But our conversations aren't about the opposing team. It's about us, and we've got some yard work to do in who we are, and how we play."

1 of 168 just hours away. First pitch is set for 2:30 p.m. Thursday.

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