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: We've reached the end of interleague play with a visit from the Marlins. If the Rangers win the series it will give them a winning record through this year's swing through the National League, although a lot of that has to do with the good luck of sharing the state with the league's worst team. Playing the Marlins, who have already lost a manager and a hitting coach this year, doesn't hurt either.
Past 2011 Meetings: No sir, but they did play last season. The Rangers pulled off a three game sweep as part of the 11-game winning streak that essentially ended the AL West race.
Pitching Matchups: Friday - Anibal Sanchez (6-1, 2.82) vs. Alexi Ogando (7-3, 2.87); Saturday - TBA, possibly Brad Hand or Elih Villanueva vs. Derek Holland (6-3, 4.68); Sunday - Javier Vazquez (4-8, 5.83) vs. C.J. Wilson (8-3, 3.14)
What's Hot: The Marlins kicked off one of the odder trends in recent baseball memory when they replaced Edwin Rodriguez, who resigned in June, with the 80-year-old Jack McKeon. McKeon, who won a World Series with the Fish in 2003, paved the way for a return to baseball for Davey Johnson, hired by the Nationals to replace Jim Riggleman. If Ron Washington should decide to pursue other things, Whitey Herzog is the odds-on favorite to replace him in the dugout.
He was cooled off on Thursday along with everybody else in a Rangers uniform, but Ian Kinsler's bat has finally caught fire after two months of mediocre results. There haven't been many moments when the Rangers have fired on all cylinders offensively this season, so the hope is that getting Kinsler going at the top of the order will be the rising tide that lifts all boats.
The Marlins had one of the worst Junes in history, more on that below, but Sanchez hasn't been dragged down by his floundering teammates. He didn't lose a game last month, which is quite impressive, and has stepped up to replace the injured Josh Johnson as the frontman for the rotation.
What's Not: How impressive is it that Sanchez didn't lose a game in June? The Marlins lost 23 of the 28 times they took the field, so avoiding a mark in that column was pretty damn impressive. They had losing streaks of eight and 11 games in June, a month that started with them two games back of the Phillies with reason to believe in a playoff run. They are now 14.5 games back and planning for the opening of a new stadium next season.
There have obviously been plenty of disappointments for the Marlins on the field, but none bigger than Hanley Ramirez. One of the best hitters in baseball in recent seasons has posted a shameful 624 OPS this season and his attitude is so sunny that one of McKeon's first acts as manager was benching the nominal best player on the team. A big second half is almost essential for Ramirez to rescue his reputation in South Florida.
Ogando's place in the rotation has generated much discussion this week as the Rangers contemplated what to do about his struggles. They've decided on the status quo for the time being, but that won't fly much longer unless Ogando starts pitching much better than he has in his last three outings. Either way, this is likely his final start before the All-Star break as the team tries to limit the stress on his arm.
Familiar Faces: How long has McKeon been in the managerial business? When Washington was an 18-year-old starting his career in the Royals organization, one of his early mentors was the current Marlins skipper.
The only other strong connection between the two franchises is that they were both dumb enough to have Adrian Gonzalez in their system and give him up for nickels on the dollar. Somehow they don't figure to honor that fact during this weekend's series.