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: When the Rangers last faced the A's, Oakland won to improve their record to 38-42. Their record is now 46-43 after a sweep of the Twins, good enough to put them right in the middle of the scrum for a Wild Card spot in the American League. This wasn't expected, not after the A's traded away most of their pitching this offseason and they've scored the fewest runs in the AL, but here we are in mid-July with the A's still relevant. Knocking off the Rangers this weekend would make the chances of contention feel a lot more real.
Past 2012 Meetings: Knocking off the Rangers hasn't been a particular problem for the A's this season. Texas fattened up on lots of games with Oakland and Seattle last year, but this year has been more even as evidenced by the 5-5 record in games against the A's thus far.
Pitching Matchups: Tuesday - Roy Oswalt (2-1, 6.26 ERA) vs. Bartolo Colon (6-7, 3.80); Wednesday - Colby Lewis (6-6, 3.51) vs. Travis Blackley (2-2, 2.63)
What's Hot: As you probably guessed by their record and offensive standing, pitching is what's driving the A's right now. They've gotten surprising contributions from Colon, Blackley, Jarrod Parker, A.J. Griffin and Tommy Milone in a rotation that's been one of the year's biggest surprises. Ryan Cook has also thrived in the back of the bullpen, allowing the team to cut bait on Brian Fuentes. It may not pan out this year, but the A's have found some pitching to build around.
Getting Lewis back is a nice shot in the arm for the Rangers rotation, especially as the offense still looks to kick itself into high gear. Trade talk is running rampant right now about the Rangers landing a pitcher, but a strong return from Lewis (and another good start from Oswalt) would help turn down the volume a little bit.
Michael Young got the second half off to a productive start with four hits in 11 at-bats against the Mariners. They were all singles, but beggars can't really be choosers. Extending the run to a week or more would allow us to come up with a more charitable way of describing the situation.
In deference to Oakland's hot recent play, we're going with four entries in this category and just two down below. Yoenis Cespedes spent some time on the DL, but the Cuban emigre's first season has been pretty good otherwise. He hit .571 with two homers over the weekend, earning the AL Player of the Week Award and adding to the good feelings around Oakland.
What's Not: Time off is always a nice thing, but couldn't baseball figure out a way to schedule things a bit better than they have for the Rangers? The All-Star break was last week and the Rangers have two off-days this week, which is a lot of free time all at once during a season with very little of it anywhere else.
Extra rest hasn't done anything good for Josh Hamilton. He was 1-for-10 over the weekend, which makes you wonder if maybe he should have been in the Home Run Derby after all.
Familiar Faces: The lack of them is what's so interesting about the A's this season. We mentioned the pitchers, but the offense has been led by Cespedes, Josh Reddick and Seth Smith to make it all about new faces for the A's. There are still names you know, of course, but the team is in the race because of players we're getting a chance to watch for the first time.