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: American League action returns with the arrival of the Orioles. They got off to a good start, but, once again, realities of life in the AL East have sent Baltimore back to the bottom. They lost five straight before winning Sunday and they've lost 13 of their last 19 overall. They're either due for a break or ripe for the picking.
Past 2011 Meetings: The Rangers took two of three in Baltimore earlier this season. Colby Lewis was the only guy to lose a game and Adrian Beltre homered twice during the set.
Pitching Matchups: Monday - Chris Jakubauskus (2-1, 5.92 ERA) vs. Lewis (7-7, 4.32); Tuesday - Undecided, likely either Alfredo Simon or Mitch Atkins vs. Matt Harrison (6-7, 3.30); Wednesday - Jeremy Guthrie (3-10, 3.93) vs. Alexi Ogando (8-3, 2.86)
What's Hot: There wasn't a ton to like about the trip to Miami, but Adrian Beltre seemed to enjoy it. He went 7-for-11 with five RBIs to continue a strong run at the plate. If he can keep it up into the start of the second half, it would be less concerning that the Rangers are now tied for first.
Nick Markakis was hitting .268 on June 24th. His average is up to .296 at the start of business on Monday and he's got five extra-base hits in that span. The average is great, but the Orioles could really use a return of Markakis's power over the rest of the season.
We assume Ron Washington's still hot under the collar about the non-balk on Sunday night. His takedown of the perpetually terrible ump Angel Hernandez was great -- "Angel is just bad, that's all there is to it" -- even if the result of the game was less fun.
What's Not: The Rangers have now lost their last seven series finales. It's not necessarily a stat that illustrates all that much, but it does seem to fit with the kind of season they're having. Finishing jobs has been harder than it was last year and that came back to haunt them in the Marlins series.
Mark Reynolds has shown some signs of life recently, a welcome sign after the power-hitter took off most of the first half. See the Markakis comment above about the need for power at Camden Yards because Reynolds is another potential source of it.
Another error from Elvis Andrus on Sunday. That's 16 for the season, which doesn't mean he's a terrible defender but an erratic one. Washington seems to be getting upset about Andrus's miscues, which could bear watching if the problems continue.
Familiar Faces: Vladimir Guerrero has fallen off a cliff. He had just three extra-base hits in June while posting a miniscule 620 OPS. His batting average still looks okay, assuming you view these things with blinders on while extremely loud music blasts away your ability to make reasonable judgments.
Life's gotten tougher for Buck Showalter after his nice close to last year and good start to this one. He had to know that a rough patch would come with a young team, the question now is if they respond as well as the kids in New York, Texas and Arizona who went to the World Series after Buck raised 'em up.