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 Angels still have a shot at turning their huge investments in new players into a playoff berth, but it will take winning out or close to it to grab a playoff spot. Ironically enough, winning the games this weekend could wind up making that task more difficult unless the A's wind up tanking against the Mariners. This is why you don't wait until the last minute to do your Christmas shopping, boys and girls.
Past 2012 Meetings: Each team has eight wins in the season series, but only two of those games really matter. Those would be the two comeback wins the Rangers secured at the start of August, victories that spurred them to a season-altering hot streak and sent the Angels into the desperate straits they now find themselves traveling.
Pitching Matchups: Friday - Jered Weaver (19-4, 2.74 ERA) vs. Ryan Dempster (7-2, 4.48); Saturday - Ervin Santana (9-12, 4.93) vs. Derek Holland (11-6, 4.50); Sunday - Zack Grienke (6-2, 3.40) vs. Yu Darvish (16-9, 3.90)
What's Hot: Splitting the series with Oakland makes the division title almost a formality for the Rangers. Anything short of losing out will allow the Rangers to avoid the pitfalls of the Wild Card play-in game that makes its debut this season, which is a much better position than it looked like the Rangers might wind up maintaining when they dropped two straight games to Oakland this week.
The Albert Pujols acquisition might not have worked out exactly as the Angels hoped, but the Zack Greinke win has proven to be a clear win for the Angels. He's 3-0 with a 1.53 ERA in September to head up a rotation that's pitched the way that the team was expecting them to pitch all season. It might not prove to be enough, but at least no one needs to feel like they were crazy for thinking the Angels would be a good pitching team this season.
Any lingering fears about the Rangers offense should be lessened by the fact that their top hitters have all been pretty well locked in over the last week. Not everyone agrees that peaking at the end of the regular season is essential for October success, but it certainly can't hurt.
What's Not: Mark Trumbo's had a breakout season and one bad month can't take anything away from what he's accomplished over the course of the entire year. That doesn't make his September swoon any more enjoyable for an Angels team that really needs all hands on deck right now.
A hearty boo for the randomness of a schedule that doesn't allow the Rangers a chance to bash C.J. Wilson around in a game that can help end the Angels' playoff dreams. Ah well, there's always next year.
Remember what we said about the Rangers' top hitters up top? Nelson Cruz no longer qualifies for that designation.
Familiar Faces: Without Wilson on the docket, the Rangers don't have any of their old friends on the other side of the fence in this series. Mike Napoli could get a little more revenge against the Angels, though, so that will have to suffice for this weekend.