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: Was it really just a little more than a week ago that the Rangers took three of four from the Angels and moved six games up in the AL West? It seems like a lot longer than that thanks to a week that saw the Angels win all five of their games while the Rangers were going 2-5 against Boston and Chicago. The Rangers need to draw the line here or September's going to be a very uncomfortable month.
Past 2011 Meetings: The two teams have played each other tight all year -- the Rangers lead the series 7-6 -- which has a lot to do with how good the Angels starting pitching has been this season. Jered Weaver's victory last Thursday over the Rangers was probably their biggest win of the season to date. Without it, the last week could have played out exactly the same but the Rangers would still have a four-game edge.
Pitching Matchups: Friday - Dan Haren (13-6, 2.98) vs. Derek Holland (11-5, 4.42); Saturday - Joel Piniero (5-6, 5.37) vs. C.J. Wilson (13-5, 3.08); Sunday - Weaver (15-6, 2.03) vs. Colby Lewis (11-9, 4.07)
What's Hot: The Angels, obviously. Their six-game winning streak has featured three walk-off wins, the first major league victory for Jerome Williams since 2005 and a slew of other unlikely developments. That makes you think that the Angels bubble will burst, but we've been saying that most of the summer and it hasn't happened.
Peter Bourjos came to the big leagues with a reputation as a speedy center fielder with a great glove, but his bat has overshawdowed those attributes this season. He's slugging .446 this season to give the Angels lineup a jolt they've really needed. He's been particularly hot recently, with three homers in the last week after hitting five in the entire season until that point.
Very little has gone right for the Rangers recently, but Ian Kinsler looks like he's on a hot streak. He has three homers in the last seven games to go with a .310 batting average, numbers that usually bode well for the Rangers' chances of winning. We may have to reassess that opinion after this weekend, though.
What's Not: The Rangers came into the season with serious questions about their pitching staff and then spent more than four months making those concerns seem like a waste of time. Welcome back to April, then, because the doubts have come storming back as pitcher after pitcher gets raked over the coals by the opposition. It would be a good time to halt that trend.
It is silly to use one week's worth of games to make a sweeping judgment of an entire season, but the last seven days have really fit with the narrative the Rangers have authored over the long haul. They have been terribly inconsistent and haven't found the extra gear they used to separate from the pack last season, which has allowed the Angels to find their footing after some serious stumbling this season. Is it complacency born of last year's trip to the World Series?
Weaver is currently pencilled in as the starting pitcher for Sunday, in part because it would keep him on regular rest for a start in the last game of the regular season against the Rangers. Going on short rest is risky, but it seems less risky than hoping that lightning strikes twice for Williams. That could still change, although it is hard to imagine the Angels won't go for broke this weekend.
Familiar Faces: If looking at the Angels isn't like looking at the back of your own hand by this point, you just haven't been paying attention.