NBC 5 News
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 2014 season.
The Opponent: Those pesky, swingin' A's, the bane of the Texas Rangers' existence in recent years, have won two straight AL West titles and knocked the Rangers off their recently roosted perch. The A's are winning games this year, but they're doing so playing uncharacteristically bad defense, just like the Rangers.
Past Meetings: The Rangers went 9-10 against the A's in 2013, but got swept by Oakland in September in the midst of their second straight September collapse.
Pitching Matchups: Monday — Yu Darvish (1-0, 0.82 ERA) vs. Dan Straily (1-1, 5.40); Tuesday — Nick Martinez (0-0, 4.50) vs. Tommy Milone (0-1, 4.09); Wednesday — Martin Perez (3-0, 1.86) vs. Sonny Gray (3-0, 1.80).
What's Hot: The Rangers' bats, in general, all took a big step forward collectively over the past week (aside from Sunday's loss). Leonys Martin has remained hot and was a double shy of the cycle on Friday, hitting .400 over the past week. Same goes for Kevin Kouzmanoff. Alex Rios has gotten hot again after a rough patch that coincided with his move to the No. 3 spot in the order. Yu Darvish and Martin Perez have shown to be a quality 1-2 punch, and Perez is coming off his first complete-game shutout in Friday's win over Chicago.
Everyone's favorite baseball player that resembles a kitten is red hot, as Craig Gentry is hitting .438 over the past week — his first week in an A's uniform after starting the year on the DL. The A's biggest villain, Josh Donaldson, is killing the ball right now, hitting .370 with a club-high five RBIs in the last week.
What's Not: J.P. Arencibia continues to scuffle at the plate and is 0-for-8 over the past week despite his two RBIs on groundouts. The Rangers' second base platoon of Josh Wilson and Donnie Murphy, after an initially hot start, has done exactly what you'd expect of those two at the plate — struggle.
The three pitchers the Rangers will see in this series all struggled to varied degrees in their last time out, but none more than Dan Straily, who gave up six earned runs in 3 2/3 innings. Brandon Moss, who has had his way with Yu Darvish over his career, is hitting just .188 over the past week.
Familiar Faces: The Rangers traded fan favorite Craig Gentry to Oakland for hot prospect Michael Choice back in the winter. Gentry just came off the disabled list, and Choice has seen limited time as a fourth outfielder and designated hitter, while also hitting his first career homer in a pinch-hit situation. Kevin Kouzmanoff made one of his many career stops in Oakland, and Alexi Ogando began his career as an outfielder in the A's organization.