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 2011 season.
The Opponent: Here come the Angels. It's a three game set at the Ballpark against the longtime scourge of the American League West. They enter with a game-and-a-half lead on the Rangers and they're bringing some hot pitching with them to Arlington.
Past 2011 Meetings: The Angels took two of three in Texas back in April, a series that seemed innocuous at the time but served as foreshadowing for the struggles to come for the Rangers. They entered that series 9-3 but they've gone 9-15 since taking the first game of the series.
Pitching Matchups: Friday - Jered Weaver (6-2, 1.87 ERA) vs. Alexi Ogando (3-0, 2.17); Saturday - Dan Haren (4-2, 1.87) vs. Derek Holland (3-1, 5.18); Sunday - Ervin Santana (1-4, 4.81) vs. C.J. Wilson (4-2, 3.36)
What's Hot: It has been a tough stretch for the Rangers and a lot more has gone wrong than right, but let's keep things in perspective. If they sweep the Angels this weekend, they'll be in first place and that's a pretty remarkable testament to the quality of the team given all that's happened.
Pulling off that sweep isn't going to be very easy, however. Weaver and Haren have each been as good as any starter in baseball through the first six weeks of the season, which makes getting them back-to-back an incredibly tall order for the Rangers.
We complimented the Rangers for hanging tough through injuries, but the Angels deserve a tip of the cap as well. They are finding a way to keep winning even though their best offensive players have been Macier Izturis, Howie Kendrick and Peter Bourjos. Not really the way anyone drew it up, but why break what doesn't need fixing?
What's Not: The Angels got a dose of unhappy news this week when they found out Kendrys Morales needs another surgery on his ankle. That means he'll miss the entire season after missing all but two months of 2010, an awful long time to be on the shelf because of celebrating a home run. It's good news for the Rangers, but baseball's always weaker for being without dynamic talent.
Not all injuries are tragedies, however. The Angels are also rolling into town without Vernon Wells and, frankly, that's not a huge loss anywhere but the balance sheet. Wells, owner of the worst contract in the game, hasn't hit since coming over from Toronto which makes the next three years (and $63 million) seem like an eternity.
Derek Holland doesn't have such baggage but it would still be nice to see him pitch a little bit better. The Rangers bullpen gets a lot of deserved criticism, although we'd like to see if they'd perform better given a little less to do on a daily basis.
Familiar Faces: If the Angels wind up hanging around the top of the standings for the entire season, it is going to be because of the guys who aren't familiar. Bourjos, Jordan Walden, Mark Trumbo and others are playing essential roles in their first full years in the major leagues. If all works out for these young guns, the AL West might go through Anaheim once again.