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: When you think about it, the Twins are kinda like the Rangers' third cousins by virtue of their shared history as former Washington Senators. The Twins were founded when the first version of D.C.'s AL team pulled up stakes and the Rangers followed them a little while later when our nation's capital again passed on big league ball. Check back in a couple of years to see if the Nationals add another team to the family tree.
Past 2011 Meetings: The Twins took three of four from the Rangers in June as part of their fairly remarkable turnaround from the worst team in baseball to one on the fringes of the playoff race. The momentum has stalled in recent days, which may mean this series is the last one for Twins players who could help more bona fide contenders.
Pitching Matchups: Monday - Nick Blackburn (7-6, 3.87 ERA) vs. Derek Holland (8-4, 4.65); Tuesday - Carl Pavano (6-7, 4.24) vs. C.J. Wilson (10-4, 2.94); Wednesday - Brian Duensing (7-8, 4.53) vs. Colby Lewis (10-7, 3.93); Thursday - Scott Baker (8-5, 2.88) vs. Matt Harrison (8-7, 3.05)
What's Hot: We're waiting and waiting for a time when Michael Young doesn't belong in this category, but it just isn't coming. He's hit .458 over the last seven days and that kind of production has become something to take for granted this season. Quite a change from the preseason trade discussions, isn't it?
Joe Mauer has returned from injuries to show that he's still got a potent bat. He's leading the Twins in hitting during July and has played every game to quiet concerns about his health going forward. The other big bat on the team this month belongs to Michael Cuddyer, who isn't letting trade rumors stop him from producing at a good level.
Speaking of trade rumors, the Carlos Beltran to the Rangers talk persists despite Beltran's stated preference to remain in the National League. The fact that the Rangers have bigger issues than offense could also impact the outcome of any discussions, especially with names like Heath Bell and Koji Uehara on the market to help the bullpen.
What's Not: Adrian Beltre's injury has robbed the Rangers of one of their hottest bats as well as one of their best defensive players. The team is deep enough to go without him for a spell and remain in their lofty position, but the impact of his absence was noticeable on Sunday when Brett Cecil shut the offense down. Lefties could be a problem until Beltre is back unless the team makes a deal for another bat to balance things out.
The Twins won 24 of 35 games to close the first half and climb into the postseason race but it doesn't look like they are going to be there much longer. They've gone 6-6 in their first 12 games of the second half when treading water just won't cut it. The culprit has been the offense, which has produced just 41 runs in those games.
The Rangers have an 8-16 record against the Twins since the start of the 2009 season, their worst against any club in baseball. Explaining why that's the case is difficult, but if this week's series goes the same way there will be a lot more calls for the Rangers to make a deal before Sunday's deadline.
Familiar Faces: Jim Thome was never a member of the Rangers, but after 2,441 big league games he qualifies as a familiar face. He's four homers away from the 600th of his career, something that may surprise you given how little attention has been paid to the coming milestone. The reasons for this range from Thome's status as a DH to the way the steroid era made so many disbelieve the record book, but given how much ink was spilled for Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit you would think this would be a bigger deal.