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: There are times in a baseball season when the schedule does you no favors and there are times when it is your best friend. This is a case of the latter as the Rangers welcome the Mariners to Arlington for a three-game set at an opportune moment. The Angels are in the Bronx this week, which means the Rangers have a good chance to extend their slim lead in the AL West.
Past 2011 Meetings: Why is it such a good chance to extend the lead? As you probably know, the Mariners aren't very good these days and they are particularly bad against the Rangers. They've won eight of 10 from Seattle this year, including all three games in Texas.
Pitching Matchups: Monday - Charlie Furbush (2-3, 3.52 ERA) vs. Matt Harrison (9-8, 3.08); Tuesday - Michael Pineda (9-7, 3.53) vs. Alexi Ogando (11-5, 2.88); Wednesday - Jason Vargas (6-10, 4.02) vs. Derek Holland (10-4, 4.35)
What's Hot: Mike Adams got the save on Sunday after Neftali Feliz blew his sixth save of the season on Saturday, which seems like a recipe for controversy. It could turn out that way, but, for now, it is a sign of the strength the Rangers added at the deadline. Adams can set Feliz up, close when he's not available or replace him if he's injured or blows up. That's a nice insurance policy to have, especially when Saturday was a blip in a strong recent run for Feliz.
Michael Young needed 152 hits to reach 2,000 when the year got underway and there weren't many people predicting he would get there. Those that thought he had a shot probably didn't think he'd get there in the first week of August, making Sunday night's milestone infield single all the more impressive. Young's been a huge part of the Rangers success this season, so congratulations to him for a piece of individual glory in a year that has defied all expectations.
It is another painful season for the Mariners, but at least they are playing out the string in the right way. Dustin Ackley, Mike Carp, Trayvon Robinson and Kyle Seager all started for the team on Sunday and none is older than 25, a good sign for a team that desperately needs to invigorate their lineup if they are going to become a contender again in the future.
What's Not: Sunday's loss to the Angels was pretty much the Mariners' season in microcosm. Felix Hernandez struck out 12 and allowed two runs in a complete game, but wound up a loser because the Mariners couldn't put up more than a run of their own. They rank last in the AL in every meaningful offensive statistic and aren't showing many signs of turning things around.
Elvis Andrus is working on an 11-game hitting streak, something that would seem to be working well for the Rangers. In truth, his batting average hasn't seen an uptick from the streak and he remains devoid of any other helpful offensive traits. He doesn't walk and has just 19 extra-base hits all season, which begs a question of why Ron Washington continues to treat him as a top of the order guy.
Pineda was a deserving All-Star last month and has been everything you would hope a rookie starter could be this season. He seems to have hit a bit of a wall of late, however, and it will be interesting to see how he responds to the extended rest the Mariners are giving him before Tuesday. In his last six starts Pineda has a 6.55 ERA, adding almost a full run to his season total in that metric.
Familiar Faces: We mentioned Carp and other young players as a move in the right direction for the Mariners, but any giddiness must be tempered by remembering that Carp is replacing the younger Justin Smoak. He's been dealing with a thumb injury, but that can't explain everything about why his season has gone into the toilet after a good April.
Two other players from the Cliff Lee trade are stopping it from being a massive bust for the Mariners. Blake Beavan has a 2.83 ERA in six starts and Josh Leuke has allowed only one run in 6.1 innings since being recalled from the minors in July.