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 2012 season.
The Opponent: It's hard to designate a particular date as the start of the stretch run in a baseball season, but July 20th sure looks like it works for this season. The Rangers are in Anaheim with a six game lead on the Angels and outcome of this series will set the stage for what each team needs to do over the final two months of the season.
Past 2012 Meetings: The team's have split six games so far this season, but their last meeting was in early June when the Angels were 28-27. They are 50-43 after dropping their last two games to the Tigers, a big turnaround that has put them firmly in the playoff picture after their miserable start to the season.
Pitching Matchups: Friday - Derek Holland (6-4, 4.57 ERA) vs. Jered Weaver (11-1, 2.26); Saturday - Yu Darvish (10-6, 3.96) vs. Ervin Santana (4-9, 5.60); Sunday - Matt Harrison (12-4, 2.87) vs. Dan Haren (6-8, 4.86)
What's Hot: The Rangers are the only team to beat Weaver this season, but they have never beaten him in Anaheim. Weaver's 7-0 against the Rangers in his home park, so they'll need to figure out a way to translate their Texas success against him to the Golden State. Good luck with that as Weaver is 6-0 with a 0.58 ERA at home this season.
If you haven't heard of Mike Trout by now, congratulations on coming out of that coma and get thyself to the internets, after reading this of course, to call up some highlights of a player trying to pull off the rare Rookie of the Year/MVP double (remember when Darvish was going to win the ROY and the Cy?). It's not common for players to draw comparisons to Mickey Mantle. It's even rarer when they don't sound the least bit hyperbolic.
With only two games this week, there's not much in the way of trends for the Rangers. Michael Young has hit in six straight games, though. Watch out Joe D!
What's Not: One of the most unbelievable things about Josh Hamilton's slump -- 4-for-31 and counting -- is that he still leads the American League in RBIs. If you ever wanted to see how quickly a player can go from being at the top of the mountain to the bottom of a valley, you could do worse than checking out Hamilton's season.
The Rangers owe Haren and Santana a debt of gratitude. If either one of them was pitching close to expected, this series might be for first place. If both of them were, it's a good bet the Angels would be in first. That thanks will be erased if their struggles lead to the Angels getting Cole Hamels or another top starter.
Darvish's inconsistency should have been anticipated, although that doesn't make it any more frustrating to have absolutely no idea what's going to happen when he takes the mound. His last start against the Mariners was a total dud, but we've learned that doesn't have much, if any, bearing on what will happen on Saturday.
Familiar Faces: C.J. Wilson and Mike Napoli won't get to renew acquaintances during this series, although one never knows what kind of Twitter "pranks" will be pulled with Wilson having so much time on his hands.