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 Tigers took a little time to get going this season, but they've found their footing and have resumed their role as AL Central favorites even as the White Sox remain in front of them in the division. It's definitely a flawed team, but those flaws feel a lot smaller whenever Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Justin Verlander are involved.
Past 2012 Meetings: The Rangers have won five of the seven games between the team this season, although the last of those meetings took place on June 27. The Tigers were 36-39 at that point and they've gone 24-13 since that time to turn their entire season around. And the Rangers aren't exactly the same team they were back then so it probably isn't too enlightening to focus on those games.
Pitching Matchups: Friday - Max Scherzer (10-6, 4.72 ERA) vs. Scott Feldman (6-6, 4.52); Saturday - Verlander (12-7, 2.51) vs. Derek Holland (7-6, 5.18); Sunday - Rick Porcello (9-6, 4.62) vs. Yu Darvish (11-8, 4.57)
What's Hot: Elvis Andrus has 15 hits in his last 34 at-bats, a run we think is good enough to put him on the hot side of the equation. It's been lost a bit with the pitching turmoil and the Josh Hamilton soap operas, but Andrus' offensive maturation this season has been a major plus for the Rangers now and should remain one in the future.
It says a lot about how great Verlander was last season that this year has felt a bit underwhelming for some. It hasn't been. He's put up essentially the same performance as he did last season and the difference in the record has come because of the work done by the team around him. Barring a collapse, Verlander's going to have a serious case for the Cy Young again this year.
We're actually pretty excited about the Feldman-Cabrera matchup. Cabrera is 7-for-10 with two homers against Feldman in the regular season, but Feldman struck him out twice in the ALCS last season. It might not seem like a marquee matchup, but it'll be interesting to see how it all plays out.
What's Not: The prospect of the Darvish we've been watching recently facing Cabrera and Fielder is fairly terrifying. This is the kind of team that Darvish needs to beat if he's going to be part of the playoff roster because this is the kind of team the Rangers will be facing.
Refer back to Verlander's not in the above section and then take a look at the Detroit defense. Everyone predicted that it would be the big problem with the Cabrera/Fielder duo and it has proven to be the case. Things have improved a bit with the acquisition of Omar Infante at second, but it's the kind of weakness that bites you at the least opportune moment.
Waiting for that Mike Napoli offensive breakout is starting to feel like Waiting for Godot. No one really understands what's going on, but you're beginning to doubt it's showing up at all.
Familiar Faces: Joaquin Benoit and Gerald Laird make up the Ranger Alumni Club in the Tigers clubhouse. Neither one had the kind of Rangers run that makes them particularly memorable and they aren't likely to do anything this weekend to make you miss them.