Chicago White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham, left, tags out Toronto Blue Jays' Jose Bautista during the first inning of a baseball game in Chicago, Friday, July 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
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: We talked earlier in the week about the Rangers' brutal June schedule against several contenders. The one team below .500 the Rangers will play this month is the Blue Jays with seven meetings, the first three of which occur this weekend in Toronto.
Past 2013 Meetings: This is the first meeting between the teams in 2013. In 2012, the Rangers went 7-3 against the our friends from north of the border, including a three-game sweep in Arlington.
Pitching Matchups: Friday — Nick Tepesch (3-4, 3.44 ERA) vs. Esmil Rogers (1-2, 3.77); Saturday — Yu Darvish (7-2, 2.77) vs. Mark Buehrle (2-4, 5.42); Sunday — Justin Grimm (5-4, 5.13) vs. Josh Johnson (0-2, 5.40).
What's Hot: Adrian Beltre is on absolute fire, even after missing two games with a mild hamstring strain suffered on Saturday night at home. He's homered in two straight games, hobbling around the bases, and is hitting well over .500 over the past week. A.J. PIerzynski is hitting .429 over the last week with five doubles and now has his season batting average up to .297. On the mound, Derek Holland has yet to fall off the wagon in Holland fashion, and Joe Nathan had a 0.00 ERA in four outings, including two saves, since blowing a save (his first and only of the season) in Seattle.
Despite the Blue Jays' disappointing start after several big acquisitions, there's still one thing the Blue Jays are very good at — hitting the ball. Over the last week, Adam Lind, Mark DeRosa and Cory Rasmus have all hit the cover off the ball, and Edwin Encarnacion has blasted three homers.
What's Not: Justin Grimm is coming off a nightmarish start in which he gave up eight earned runs in less than two innings on Tuesday, and Michael Kirkman is somehow still on the roster after failing once again on Thursday. At the plate, several Rangers are underperfoming, most notably Lance Berkman (.182 over the last week) and Elvis Andrus (.174).
Jose Bautista is one of the game's most feared hitters, but not right now. The slugger who's grown accustomed to 40-plus homer seasons is hitting just .077 in his last five games. Buehrle, who the Rangers will face on Saturday, gave up 10 hits and four runs over six innings in his last start.
Familiar Faces: Mark DeRosa was a Rangers' utility man for a year and gave them a productive season, while pitcher R.A. Dickey, who came up in the Rangers' system before his well-publicized fall from grace that led to last year's NL Cy Young award with the Mets, is now in Toronto and off to a rough start although he seems to have figured out his knuckler in his last outing. Rangers reliever Jason Frasor came up in the Blue Jays' system and played his first eight big-league seasons with the Blue Jays.