ARLINGTON, TX - OCTOBER 24: Fans call out for autographs prior to Game Five of the MLB World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on October 24, 2011 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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 Royals are the perfect opponents for the Rangers after their stirring wins to close out the Angels series. If a switch has been flipped on offense, they'll carve up the last-place Royals this weekend. If things haven't been tied up in such a nifty bow, the A's might be the next team to make them sweat.
Past 2012 Meetings: The Royals won both games the teams played in Texas in mid-May, part of the inconsistent month that brought the Rangers back to Earth after their crackling April. Hard to say how much they tell us about these games since Jonathan Broxton, now in Cincinnati, saved the first and Colby Lewis made two errors in the second.
Pitching Matchups: Friday - Matt Harrison (12-6, 3.19 ERA) vs. Jeremy Guthrie (0-2, 9.58 since trade from Colorado); Saturday - Scott Feldman (5-6, 4.76) vs. Will Smith (2-3, 5.94, West Philadelphia born and raised ... one of those things might not be true); Sunday - Derek Holland (7-6, 4.96) vs. Luke Hochevar (7-9, 5.22)
What's Hot: For the first time in quite a while, it looks like the Rangers are hot. The comeback on Thursday wasn't quite as jaw-dropping as the one on Wednesday, but it sure was emphatic. After a long stretch where it looked like the Rangers were losing a war of attrition, everything came back to Technicolor life. Scoring 26 runs in two nights has a way of making that happen.
Welcome to the Rangers, Mike Olt and Geovany Soto. They went 3-for-8 with two RBIs and three runs scored in their joint debuts with the team on Thursday, minor roles in an ensemble effort that resulted in 15 runs. Their usage going forward will be interesting to watch on a team that has a lot of parts to mix and match.
It's been another mess in Kansas City, which waits and waits for their youth explosion to translate into wins. Billy Butler and Alex Gordon aren't to blame, though. Gordon leads the majors in doubles and Butler is having the best season of a career that wasn't all that shabby coming into the year.
What's Not: The fun of the last two nights can't be taken away, but it also can't continue if the pitching isn't better. The Rangers gave up 40 runs in the four games with the Angels, which even the hottest Rangers offense can't support over the long term. Holland getting hot would be particularly appreciated by a rotation that can't seem to replace question marks with exclamation points.
Hindsight is 20/20, which is why we can say without reservation that the Royals made the worst trade of the offseason when they shipped Melky Cabrera to San Francisco for pitcher Jonathan Sanchez. Cabrera was the MVP of the All-Star Game and Sanchez was horrid in Kansas City before being traded for Guthrie. Guthrie's been horrid, but, in the only saving grace for the Royals, Sanchez has actually pitched worse for the Rockies.
That trade would sting less if Eric Hosmer hadn't taken such a big step backward. He's down everywhere from his impressive rookie season and hasn't figured out a way to snap what amounts to a full-year slump. His talent suggests he'll bounce back, but there's a lot riding on the suggestion.
Familiar Faces: Jeff Francoeur had a good May. That would be the first line and the last line in a book of nice things to say about Francoeur's 2012 season. He hasn't cracked a 600 OPS in any of the other three months and he still has another year to go on a contract extension nearly as bad as the Sanchez trade. Even worse, Will Myers should be up and playing right field because he's proven everything he needs to prove in the minors.