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: Remember when the Twins were the scrappy little team that could overcome serious flaws long enough to lose in the first round of the playoffs? That team is nowhere to be found and the team appears to be headed for a last-place finish. In a division with the Royals, that's really saying something.
Past 2012 Meetings: The Rangers swept the Twins in Minnesota back in April, three wins marked by strong Texas pitching and two Josh Hamilton home runs. That's an unusual result in the history between these teams, which hasn't seen the Rangers win a season series since 2006.
Pitching Matchups: Friday - Francisco Liriano (2-7, 5.40 ERA) vs. Martin Perez (1-0, 9.00); Saturday - Samuel Deduno (first start of season) vs. Derek Holland (5-4, 5.10); Sunday - Cole De Vries (2-1, 3.91) vs. Roy Oswalt (2-1, 7.79)
What's Hot: Josh Hamilton isn't torrid, exactly, but he's showing signs of life after being dreadful for most of June. He's got 10 hits in his last 34 at-bats, including four home runs after hitting one for the first 24 days of June. Kicking things up another notch to start the second half would be much appreciated.
Trevor Plouffe was hitting .185 with five homers and eight RBIs after May, numbers that made you wonder why the Twins insisted on keeping him on the team. He's now hitting .250 with 19 homers and 35 RBIs, numbers that explain why Minnesota decided to keep him around team that needs all the pop in can get.
When you look at the three pitchers going for the Rangers this weekend, you might see callow youth, a lefty returning from injury and a veteran who has gotten shelled in two of his three starts. You could also look at Perez, Holland and Oswalt and see an illustration of how good a job the Rangers have done to deal with adversity in the first half.
What's Not: The Rangers have lost four straight games, which makes this series a bit bigger than you might imagine given the time of the season and the opposition. Losing any more games to the Angels before the break will set things up for an unforgiving stretch run for a Rangers team that's awfully thin on the mound.
Deduno will be the 11th different starting pitcher that the Twins have used this season, which is one more than the Rangers have used to this point in the campaign. That's a lot of pitchers to run through before the All-Star break, although the performances of the two staffs make it clear that Minnesota's issue hasn't been rotation instability.
If the Rangers want to skip Yu Darvish to get him a little extra rest, that's fine even if it he did pitch more than 230 innings last season. If they are going to do that, though, Darvish shouldn't be pitching in the All-Star Game and the team shouldn't have been pushing to have him elected to the game as the final member of the team. Darvish pitches for the Rangers, not the American League.
Familiar Faces: The Twins don't employ any former Rangers, but these franchises have shared history beyond any player. They were both Washington Senators once and they've both found much more success since leaving the swamp on the Potomac in the rearview mirror.