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: It wasn't much more than a month ago that everyone feared what the Angels' offseason would do to the landscape of the AL West. It turns out that those fears were a bit bigger than they needed to be as the Angels took their first steps with all the grace of a guy whose shoelaces were tied together. Now the two teams will be on the same field in a series that matters more to the Angels than most May series should matter.
Past 2012 Meetings: It's the first meeting of the season, which means that there will plenty of familiarity between the teams over the rest of the season. They'll play 19 games and the results will be crucial to each team's playoff hopes.
Pitching Matchups: Friday - C.J. Wilson (4-2, 2.61 ERA) vs. Yu Darvish (4-1, 2.54); Saturday - Jerome Williams (3-1, 3.38) vs. Matt Harrison (4-2, 5.11); Sunday - Jered Weaver (5-0, 1.60) vs. Neftali Feliz (2-1, 3.38)
What's Hot: This Josh Hamilton fella had quite the trip to Baltimore, huh? Calling Hamilton hot is a pretty tremendous understatement since he was hot before hitting six homers in four games against the Orioles. Incendiary? Scorching? There's gotta be a better word.
If Weaver wasn't off to as good a start as any pitcher in the league, we shudder to think of where the Angels would be at this point in the season. He's pitched a no-hitter, struck out 47 hitters in 50.2 innings and allowed no runs in four of his six starts this year. He may be on line to move up from second to first in the Cy Young voting.
The schedule worked out pretty nicely to leave us with a Wilson-Darvish matchup in the series opener. Wilson's departure made room for Darvish at the top of the Rangers rotation and, so far, the move has worked out quite well for the Rangers. We'll see if they have any remorse on Friday.
What's Not: This wasn't what the Angels expected when they signed Albert Pujols for $240 million over 10 years. He's got one home run, a .198 batting average and he's already heard boos from a home crowd that has to be wondering if they hit off tees in the National League right about now. There's no way things can remain this bad for one of the greatest hitters of all time, but it is certainly a scary way to start a long-term relationship.
Harrison bounced back with a win in his start against the Orioles, but he didn't really pitch all that much better than he had in his two previous losses. He's allowing too many homers, his strikeout rate has dropped and Harrison just doesn't look like he's in full command of his pitches yet.
It's hard to think about October when we haven't even made it to Mother's Day, but the Angels have to at least have the seven-game gap between them and the Rangers in the back of their minds. Lose this series and it is at least an eight-game spread and a sweep would leave them 10 games back of a team that they don't figure to be 11 games better than over the rest of the schedule. You can't win a pennant in April, but you might be able to lose one.
Familiar Faces: The Wilson-Darvish meeting is interesting because of how they are tied together narratively. Wilson against Mike Napoli is going to be interesting because of Wilson's asinine decision to tweet Napoli's phone number to the world. Wilson against everyone else is going to be interesting because you always kinda wonder if your pitchers could get your hitters out.