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: Just as we all suspected, the Mariners have proven to be an improved club this season, along with the rest of the AL West, and they'll send their fearsome two-headed pitching monster of King Felix and Hisashi Iwakuma to the hill over the weekend.
Past 2014 Meetings: The Rangers are 5-4 against the Mariners this year and took three of four from them in Arlington back in April.
Pitching Matchups: Friday — Nick Tepesch (2-2, 4.91 ERA) vs. Felix Hernandez (8-1, 2.39); Saturday — Joe Saunders (0-2, 3.60) vs. Erasmo Ramirez (1-4, 5.97); Sunday — Nick Martinez (1-3, 4.63) vs. Hisashi Iwakuma (4-3, 2.79).
What's Hot: Alex Rios and Adrian Beltre are still red hot — nothing's new there. In a bit of a surprise, two young middle infield prospects who should probably be in Frisco right now are the team's two hottest hitters besides Beltre and Rios. Rougned Odor, 20, and 21-year-old Luis Sardinas are hitting .467 and .429, respectively, over the last week. Odor's season average is now above .300 as he's basically become the team's third-best hitter with Shin-Soo Choo's horrible struggles. An overworked bullpen should be well-rested come Friday, thanks to a day off Thursday and a Yu Darvish complete game on Wednesday.
The Mariners' key off-season acquisition, Robinson Cano, is hitting .348 over the last week with two doubles, a homer and four RBIs. Felix Hernandez is coming off one of the most impressive outings in recent memory after he struck out 15 batters in just seven innings of shutout work. Phenomenal.
What's Not: Nick Martinez has been shelled in his last few outings and had his worst start of the season on Monday night against Cleveland, allowing eight earned runs in just two innings of work. He allowed six hits and two walks and gave up two long balls in those two innings. After his two-hit night Wednesday, Choo is now 3-for-25 over the last seven games. Leonys Martin is 3-for-19 over that same span.
The Mariners' offense is in worse shape than the Rangers' right now, thanks in large part to the struggles of noted Rangers killer Kyle Seager, who's just 3-for-24 over the past week. Of course, he'll probably turn that around against the team he loves to torment.
Familiar Faces: Joe Saunders pitched for the Mariners in 2013, sparing everyone to death, but was a workhorse of the Mariners' staff with the exception of the aforementioned two-headed pitching monster. Choo broke in to the bigs with the Mariners. Beltre spent five disappointing seasons in Seattle, where he fell victim to the cavernous Safeco Park. Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak will be forever remembered here for bringing the Rangers Cliff Lee for a half-season. The Mariners just placed Smoak on the disabled list, so he won't see the team he came up with.