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: If the season ended Sunday, the Rangers would be hosting the Red Sox in the first game of the ALDS on Monday night. The season didn't end, which means that this is just the ordinary first game of a four-game series between two teams trying to stay on track for a postseason date.
Past 2011 Meetings: Should the Red Sox wind up finishing behind the Yankees, they'll likely look back at their slow start to the season as the reason why things didn't go their way. The Rangers got them off to that slow start with a three-game sweep to open the season and the teams haven't met since then.
Pitching Matchups: Monday - Erik Bedard (4-8, 3.44 ERA) vs. C.J. Wilson (12-5, 3.20); Tuesday - John Lackey (11-9, 6.02) vs. Colby Lewis (11-8, 3.83); Wednesday - Josh Beckett (10-5, 2.46) vs. Matt Harrison (10-8, 3.28); Thursday - Tim Wakefield (6-5, 4.97) vs. Alexi Ogando (12-5, 3.30)
What's Hot: The series that opened the season was just part of a multi-season run of Rangers dominance over the Sox in Arlington. Boston hasn't won a series in Texas since 2008 and they've dropped 10 of their last 12 games at the Ballpark. That bodes well for this week and for any postseason matchup that might follow.
The Red Sox have done a remarkable job of plugging players into holes and getting results in recent years. This year is proving no different. Their lineup and staff has dealt with injuries and ineffectiveness all year long, but, thanks to guys like Josh Reddick and Alfredo Aceves, you'd never notice it from the results.
Ian Kinsler became the fourth member of the Rangers with 20 homers when he blasted a pair of them on Saturday. Josh Hamilton and Mitch Moreland both have 16, making it quite possible that they'll have six guys with 20 or more when the season comes to a close. That's a nice bit of power to have at your back when trying to get back to the World Series.
What's Not: When the Rangers left for Chicago on Thursday night, it felt like the AL West was well in hand. Now the lead is back to four, with the Angels following the Red Sox into town. That lead feels a lot more precarious than it should given the way last week played out in Anaheim.
No Rangers fan is going to complain, but the series definitely loses some juice thanks to the injury problems of the Red Sox. Jacoby Ellsbury, David Ortiz and Kevin Youkilis have all been out of the lineup leaving the Sox without a healthy chunk of their offensive oomph. It's less fun to win games over damaged opposition and any losses will hurt twice as much.
John Lackey is having an awful season on and off the field. His wife is battling cancer, his ERA is higher than the cast of a Cheech and Chong film and he has responded to both by fighting with the media all season long. That adds up to a total mess for Lackey in 2011 and some serious second-guessing of the big contract that Theo Epstein gave him before last season.
Familiar Faces: Adrian Gonzalez wasn't in Texas long enough to become a familiar face, but his grin haunts the team all the same. His visits to Arlington in the years to come will be an annual reminder that Jon Daniels didn't always get the job done on the trade market. If he ever makes another move that bad, he might lose the privilege for good.