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: The Cleveland Indians were once the heartwarming surprise story of the American League, but then reality set in. Now they are battling to keep from falling below .500 and not doing a very good job of it. They've lost five of seven and might not have the horses for the rest of the course.
Past 2011 Meetings: Facing the Rangers hasn't been good for the Indians this season. They've won just one of seven games, which should make Ron Washington feel pretty pleased about the timing of this series. The AL West race is still too close for comfort and an easy series with Cleveland will help draw the curtain down a little further.
Pitching Matchups: Tuesday - Justin Masterson (11-9, 3.01) vs. Matt Harrison (11-9, 3.50); Wednesday - David Huff (2-4, 3.05) vs. Derek Holland (13-5, 4.12); Thursday - Fausto Carmona (6-14, 5.18) vs. Alexi Ogando (12-8, 3.71)
What's Hot: Adrian Beltre's return to the lineup has gone pretty well, don't you think? Beltre drove in seven runs against Oakland and has hit .395 in his last 10 games. Beltre hit the 300th and 301st home runs of his career on Sunday, which has some people wondering if he might be able to plot a course to Cooperstown. It's premature talk, but Beltre's proving he's more than just a contract year player.
Shelley Duncan will never be more than fringey major league player, but he'll be a fun one to watch. Duncan has serious power and is on a tear right now with five homers in his last eight games. Should he go deep in this series, for the sake of your own health don't give him a high five. Duncan approaches the task with the gusto of a starving man at an all-you-can-eat buffet and it is a wonder he's never broken anyone's hand.
The Jim Thome trade came too late to help the Indians make a run in the AL Central, but it has still been pretty cool to see him back in an Indians uniform. It's a shame that Thome's 600th home run wasn't treated with a little more fanfare, although it might just be a sign that the power fatigue that set in six or seven years ago hasn't lifted even as the game has changed to one less dominated by musclebound sluggers with dubious histories.
What's Not: Since their last win of a six-game winning streak on Aug, 17, the Rangers have not been able to put together an extended run of winning baseball. They are 11-12 over that period, not a disaster but not exactly what they need to put away the Angels once and for all either. One little win streak, three or four games really, would make it very difficult for Anaheim to keep pace.
One more chance for Ogando this week, but is anyone out there still thinking we're going to see anything resembling the first half? He looks spent and it might behoove the team to transition him to a bullpen role sooner rather than later so that he might provide some value to this team down the stretch and in the postseason.
The Thome trade makes you feel good, but it is tougher to get a read on the Ubaldo Jimenez trade. The Rangers won't see the pitcher the Indians paid a king's ransom for in July, but it is already fair to ask if they gave up too much to chase an unlikely playoff bid. Jimenez will be around a while, but the Indians broke from building from within by dealing two top pitching prospects, a risky move that really needs to pay off over the next few years.
Familiar Faces: For the final time this season, we get to remind you that the Indians once gave away Travis Hafner. He's not the greatest thing since sliced bread, but he's Babe Ruth and Henry Aaron rolled into one compared to Ryan Drese.