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 Oakland A's, who have replaced the Los Angeles Angels as Public Enemy No. 1 in the minds of the Texas Rangers and their fans after their late-season rally to win the AL West on the season's final day last year, enter the three-game home set against the Rangers on the ropes with only three wins in their last 10 games and a current 6-game deficit behind the Rangers in the division — baseball's largest deficit between first and second place in a division.
Past 2013 Meetings: This is the first of many meetings between the teams this season, but the Rangers remember the A's very well from last season, when they caught the Rangers on the season's final day to end the Rangers' streak of winning the AL West at two years and send them to the AL Wild Card Game, where they lost to Baltimore. Of course, a big reason for that loss in Game 162 was the infamous drop by Josh Hamilton in center field that led to A's fans throwing a big ol' party for Hamilton's return to the bay a couple of weeks ago with his new team. God bless those A's fans.
Pitching Matchups: Monday — Justin Grimm (2-2, 3.45 ERA) vs. A.J. Griffin (3-3, 3.83); Tuesday — Derek Holland (3-2, 2.54) vs. Bartolo Colon (3-2, 4.57); Wednesday — Alexi Ogando (3-2, 3.09) vs. Dan Straily (1-1, 7.06).
What's Hot: Well, judging by the weekend sweep of the Astros, just about everything is hot for the Rangers minus the non-winning pieces of the bullpen that made two games interesting in the late innings that should have been anything but. But when you score 12 runs without your two leading run-producers in the lineup, something's going right for you. Adrian Beltre is on a tear, as is Elvis Andrus, and Mitch Moreland has been hot for three weeks now after a horrific start. Even David Murphy appears to be breaking out of his season-long slump. Pitching wise, it's hard to believe that with all the attention Yu Darvish is getting he's not even the team leader in ERA. That would be Derek Holland.
For Oakland, not much to see here. The A's have struggled over the last 10 games. Literally, they don't even have a regular hitting over .300 over the last seven days — a small sample size where you should have a few guys hitting decently. Not this bunch, however.
What's Not: Michael Kirkman might not pitch again for a while after nearly coughing up a comfortable Rangers lead Saturday night and forcing Ron Washington to go to his closer in the ninth inning after Kirkman failed to close it out in a game the Rangers eventually won by just one run. Nelson Cruz is hitting .150 over the last week but even Cruz is in a massive slump can still put up some tape-measure home runs like the one he hit Friday night to tie the game in the sixth inning before the Rangers rallied to win.
Yoenis Cespedes is one of the best young players in baseball and would've easily won AL Rookie of the Year last season if not for Mike Trout's MVP-caliber season, but he's in a bad way right now, hitting just .115 at 3 for his last 26 at-bats. When Cespedes is struggling like that, it's going to be hard for the A's to do a lot offensively.
Familiar Faces: Nope, nothing to see here. The A's favorite Ranger, Hamilton, is gone now. Not many ties between these two.