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: The Rays have worked a little more late-season magic this month as they've opened August with 16 wins in their first 23 games to climb back into the hunt for the AL East title. They closed within 2.5 games of the Yankees before losing their last two to the A's to slip back a bit. They're looking like a much better bet for another playoff trip, though, and that could mean a third straight playoff showdown with the Rangers.
Past 2012 Meetings: The league scheduling office certainly wasn't itching to see the Rangers and Rays play this season. The Rays took two of three in Texas in April, but the teams have been apart for the last four months before coming back together for six games down the stretch. If they do meet in October, those games will get broken down like the Zapruder film.
Pitching Matchups: Monday - David Price (16-4, 2.28 ERA) vs. Derek Holland (8-6, 4.92); Tuesday - James Shields (12-7, 4.01) vs. Yu Darvish (12-9, 4.51); Wednesday - Alex Cobb (8-8, 4.32) vs. Matt Harrison (15-7, 3.04)
What's Hot: The Rays, generally, but Price has been particularly smoking of late. He's allowed just two runs over his last 30 innings and he's gone at least seven innings without allowing a run in four of his last seven starts to make a late run at Cy Young consideration. It's probably a good idea to get familiar with Price, because someone is sure to propose dealing Elvis Andrus for him this offseason.
Summer might be ending, but Ian Kinsler's heating up. He's hitting .375 with three doubles, a triple, two homers, nine RBIs and seven runs scored in the last eight games, a stretch that's seen the Rangers score 63 runs and win six times. Amazing what a difference getting on base can do for an offense, isn't it?
Even after two straight playoff meetings, the Rays and Rangers don't have a rivalry. You'd need to play in the ALCS for anything of that nature to develop between teams that don't share a division. They are kindred spirits in their front office approaches, albeit with more money on the Rangers side of the ledger. That makes it fun to see them hook up and fun to imagine how the teams would fare if Joe Maddon and Ron Washington swapped sides.
What's Not: If the Rays ever figure out a way to develop offensive players as well as they develop pitchers, there will be a lot of big games played in the league's worst ballpark. As it stands, their inability to develop a consistent offensive attack is the Achilles heel keeping them from setting the tone for the entire American League.
Scott Feldman isn't pitching in this series, but he looks like the Michael Young of pitchers. Feldman's brief run of competence has come to an end, but Washington likes his guys and that means Roy Oswalt will be left to stew in the bullpen despite the fact that he was signed to avoid starting Scott Feldman in meaningful games.
The defense rested on Sunday, leading to a Rangers loss. Fielding isn't usually a problem for them and there's no reason to believe it will start to be all of a sudden, but as we get closer to October every little weakness gets magnified because it could wind up costing them a series.
Familiar Faces: If anyone's familiar, it's just from the amount of time the two teams have spent together in the past few years. These two teams spend their time ripping off other teams instead of each other.