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: For the second time in a little more than a week, it's the Rays. Not too much has changed for them since the last meeting. They're still nipping at the heels of the Orioles and Yankees while playing some of their best baseball of the season. Rinse and repeat as needed.
Past 2012 Meetings: The Rangers won two of three in Texas last week, including a 1-0 gem by Yu Darvish. The Rays won two of three in a previous visit which means these three games will settle the season series. It doesn't actually mean anything, but it sounds kinda dramatic.
Pitching Matchups: Friday - Derek Holland (10-6, 4.79 ERA) vs. Jeremy Hellickson (8-10, 3.41); Saturday - Darvish (14-9, 4.29) vs. David Price (17-5, 2.54); Sunday - Matt Harrison (15-9, 3.37) vs. James Shields (13-8, 3.88)
What's Hot: Jurickson Profar became the youngest player since Adrian Beltre to hit a home run and the Rangers will be very lucky if the similarities continue. Beltre's been impossible to get out over the last week, stoking another round of appreciation for how good a career he's putting together. Hall of Fame talk remains premature, but let's see where things stand at this time in 2014.
Speaking of Profar, he's got the top spot on MLB.com's ranking of the top 100 prospects in baseball. Mike Olt is No. 17 and the Rangers landed two more players lower down on the list. The present and future both look pretty good.
B.J. Upton's never turned into quite what the Rays hoped he'd become, but he's riding a hot bat at exactly the right time for a team that always seems to need a little extra offense. With Desmond Jennings and Evan Longoria also hitting, the Rays' run through September might not be stopping.
We're going with an extra entry in this category because both teams have been in a pretty good way of late. It's a big series for the Rays, who go on the road to Baltimore and New York next week for games that will say a lot about who wins the AL East. Stumbling now would be very bad for them, so we'll definitely be seeing their A game.
What's Not: It'd be nice to see a strong start for Matt Harrison. He's had two bad ones in a row, which is nothing over the course of the whole season but it would be to the Rangers' advantage if he provided some reassurance that he's not trending down at the exact wrong moment.
Three games in the abomination known as the Tropicana Dome? Meaningful baseball belongs in more meaningful places.
Familiar Faces: These teams just saw each other so familiarity isn't a problem. We're just not sure they'll recognize each other in the dim light of the Trop.