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's a second straight cellar dweller for the Rangers as the Mariners roll into town to continue playing out the same string they've been playing for more than a decade. They actually flirted with a .500 record in August before the .500 record decided it wasn't in the mood for a summer fling and found a more committed partner.
Past 2012 Meetings: The Rangers have only won seven of their first 13 matchups with the Mariners this season, definitely a missed opportunity to cushion their lead over the course of the season. The hardest result of the entire baseball season to figure out is that the Mariners scored 21 runs in one of the games since it normally takes Seattle about seven games to score that many runs.
Pitching Matchups: Friday - Hisashi Iwakuma (6-4, 3.39 ERA) vs. Yu Darvish (14-9, 4.14); Saturday - Jason Vargas (14-10, 3.85) vs. Scott Feldman (6-11, 4.97); Sunday - Blake Beavan (9-9, 5.01) vs. Matt Harrison (16-9, 3.36)
What's Hot: The schedule has really worked out for the Mariners over the final weeks of the season. Getting Cleveland and six games with Seattle is much more appealing than the road trip that Oakland has to take to Detroit and the Bronx in the next week. Take advantage of that good fortune this weekend and the division title will be close enough to taste.
Iwakuma and Vargas aren't going to top anyone's list of the best pitchers in baseball, but they've been a reliable pair of starters for Seattle this year. Kevin Millwood hasn't been terrible and Felix Hernandez is Felix Hernandez. Imagine what a group like this could do with teammates who could actually hit?
Remember when Josh Hamilton wasn't just the runaway MVP of the American League but the beating heart of the Rangers? No? Neither does Adrian Beltre.
What's Not: Harrison's return to form was a bit overblown unless you're really excited about pitchers who run out of gas in the fifth inning. He's back on regular rest now and we're interested to see if we get the strong Harrison of early this season or the underpowered one we've tired of watching lately.
As a unit, the Mariners have an on-base percentage of .294. That ranks them near the absolute bottom in the history of baseball, although it is pretty much just par for the course for the Mariners offense in recent seasons. Until that changes, the Mariners won't get any better.
We haven't mentioned Nelson Cruz in these parts recently. That's not because he hasn't been playing poorly, because he has. It's because we actually forgot he was even on the team anymore.
Familiar Faces: The Rangers might not have been able to Cliff Lee in Texas, but it's hard to argue about the trade that brought him to Texas. Not only did they make it to the World Series for the first time, but they dealt Justin Smoak before his league-worst offensive production could drag down their lineup.