On Deck will be here all season to provide you with everything you need to know (and a few things you don't) about every Rangers series during the 2013 season.
The Opponent: The Los Angeles Angels have been pretty bad for much of the season, but of course as they come to Texas to close the regular season they're red hot despite having nothing to play for, including two straight wins over the AL West champion Oakland A's.
Past 2013 Meetings: The Rangers are 11-4 against the Angels this season and can ill afford to lose any games the way the Cleveland Indians and Tampa Bay Rays are playing ahead of them in the AL Wild Card standings.
Pitching Matchups: Thursday — Matt Garza (10-6, 3.90 ERA; 4-5, 4.56 as Ranger) vs. Jerome Williams (9-10, 4.55); Friday — Alexi Ogando (7-4, 2.93) vs. C.J. Wilson (17-7, 3.36); Saturday — Derek Holland (10-9, 3.33) vs. Garrett Richards (7-7, 4.09); Sunday — Yu Darvish (13-9, 2.82) vs. Jason Vargas (9-7, 4.01).
What's Hot: The Houston Astros are always the cure for a hitting slump, and it's been no different for the Rangers. Craig Gentry has stayed hot, hitting a team-best .429 over the last six games in which he's basically become the everyday left fielder. Ian Kinsler homered on Wednesday night and is now hitting .370 over the last week, and Alex Rios is hot again thanks in large part to his cycle on Monday night and he now has two homers and seven RBIs in the past seven games. The Rangers' entire rotation that will face the Angels is hot, with the exception of Darvish, who has two so-so starts in his previous two outings. Holland tossed a shutout on Monday, Ogando went seven scoreless against the Royals and Garza pitched into the ninth and allowed one run to the Royals.
Look out, Rangers fans. The hottest Angel bat going right now belongs to none other than Josh Hamilton, who's hitting .333 with a triple and four RBIs over his last five games. If there's one team Hamilton has been consistently good against this year, it's been Texas. And he'd love nothing more than to spoil his ex-teammates' season. Jason Vargas is coming off a complete-game shutout of the AL West champion A's in his previous start and will be opposing the Rangers in Sunday's regular-season finale.
What's Not: Darvish hasn't been awful, but he's having trouble again with long balls and executing shutdown innings after he's staked with a lead. He's allowed four earned runs and nine hits in his last 10 1/3 innings while walking 10 batters — not a good combination. Teams are learning they just need to be patient with Darvish due to his reluctancy to throw his 96 mph fastball. A.J. PIerzynski has just three hits in his last six games, two of which were RBI doubles.
Saturday's starter, Garrett Richards, struggled in his last start, surrendering eight hits and seven runs in 4 2/3 innings. Two of the Angels' hottest bats recently, Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun, are hitting .118 and .143, respectively, over the last week. That bodes well for the Rangers, especially the slump of Trout.
Familiar Faces: There are too many to count over recent years, but the most notable are of course Wilson, who joined the Angels after a nice stretch with the Rangers prior to the 2012 season and is having a career year on a hot streak since the all-star break. Then, of course, the source of many Rangers fans boos, former AL MVP Josh Hamilton, who signed a big five-year deal with the Angels this winter only to hit .246 this year with 21 homers and 74 RBIs — far below what the Angels had hoped they'd be paying for.