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: There was a point in this season when the Indians looked like they'd be in the hunt for the AL Central title. There was also a point in this season when it looked like the Red Sox were just off to a slow start and that the A's were inferior to the Angels. All of these things have been proven very wrong.
Past 2012 Meetings: The Rangers paid a visit to Cleveland in May, which was during that part of the season when it seemed there was something worthwhile about the Indians. The home team took two of three back then and, happily for the Rangers, there are three more games in Texas in September.
Pitching Matchups: Friday - Ryan Dempster (3-1, 5.46 ERA) vs. Ubaldo Jimenez (9-13, 5.58); Saturday - Scott Feldman (6-10, 4.95) vs. Roberto Hernandez (0-3, 7.53); Sunday - Derek Holland (9-6, 4.90) vs. Zach McAllister (5-5, 3.82)
What's Hot: Dempster has had two good outings in a row and the Indians are as good a team as any to have on the docket as he tries to make it three. With Yu Darvish showing signs of life, the Rangers rotation is looking a lot better all of a sudden.
It's not just the rotation, either. The bullpen has been smoking of late with two runs allowed in their last 16 innings of work. We've done just as much hand-wringing about the offensive valleys as anybody else this season, but the truth is that the Rangers' chances of grabbing the title will start with how well they pitch.
Things have gone off the rails for the Indians, but the pitching has been the main culprit. The team needs some extra thunder in the lineup, but you could do worse than having players like Carlos Santana, Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo and Jason Kipnis around a bigger name or two. How the Indians get such a player is another question for another time, however.
What's Not: The Indians pitching staff is a disaster of Titanic proportions. They've allowed the most runs in the American League, seen Jimenez go from promising to disappointing and generally lost any and all hope that things will get better on the mound without a serious overhaul. Wild Thing Vaughn would be so disappointed.
Feldman gets another start, even though he has turned in increasingly dismal performances when it is his turn on the mound. Assuming Roy Oswalt doesn't get traded by the end of the day, you have to wonder if there's really a better chance of Feldman turning it around or if seeing what Oswalt has left in the tank might not be a better route to go at this point.
The Indians are not a team with the payroll to afford a mistake, so the fact that they made two is particularly brutal. Grady Sizemore won't play a game all year after getting $5 million from the team in hopes that he could turn around after several injury-filled seasons. Travis Hafner is making $13 million in the final year of a deal that was too long when the Indians made it and Hafner didn't yet have an injury history.
Familiar Faces: Hafner's the only former Ranger, although the forlorn faces of the Indians players as they play out the string will be familiar to any longtime baseball watchers as an annual rite visited upon the unlucky.