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: The White Sox are going to be in the visitor's dugout for the next three games, but all eyes are going to be on the Rangers. Specifically, they're going to be on Nelson Cruz and Josh Hamilton as they make their return to the lineup.
Past 2011 Meetings: The two teams split a pair of games in Chicago during last week's road trip with the Rangers getting a win behind Colby Lewis and blowing a game thanks to the bullpen. They expect better results now that the roster is whole.
Pitching Matchups: Monday - John Danks (0-6, 4.32 ERA) vs. Alexi Ogando (4-0, 2.13); Tuesday - Jake Peavy (1-0, 2.40) vs. Derek Holland (3-1, 4.37); Wednesday - Gavin Floyd (5-3, 3.88) vs. C.J. Wilson (4-3, 3.42)
What's Hot: The return of Cruz and Hamilton is about as hot as it gets for the Rangers. There's been plenty of worry around the Rangers while the middle of the lineup has been on the disabled list, but the fact is that the team is still above .500 and leading the AL West. That bodes very well for the immediate future.
The White Sox will have something to say about that, however. They've been on quite the little tear of late, winning 11 of their last 15 after falling to 11-22 earlier this month. They pulled off something similar after a rough start last season, forcing us to wonder why April is such a cruel month for Ozzie Guillen.
The big reason why has been a pitching staff that's seen a nearly two-run drop in team ERA from April to May. Alexei Ramirez has been a big driver of the team's recent offensive success, posting nine hits and nine RBIs in his last 17 at bats.
What's Not: The return of Cruz and Hamilton has everyone feeling chipper which is nice since the team has been mostly miserable offensively. They scored five runs in their last four games against the Royals and Phillies and there's only so much of that you can write off as the product of good pitching. The Rangers need a shot in the arm from their two stars.
While the White Sox as a team have turned things around, their biggest offseason acquisition hasn't yet caught fire. Adam Dunn is slugging just .347 on the season, depriving the Sox of the power they wanted when they signed him as a free agent. Why is this happening? Could be the adjustment to designated hitting or perhaps it is the weather or worries about the possibility of the world ending on May 21st, but Dunn needs to get his power turned on soon.
There were no meltdowns this weekend, but Rangers bullpen is still worrisome enough that the team is starting to kick tires on a replacement. Pirates closer Joel Hanrahan is the object of their desires, although nothing seems particularly imminent. It won't take too many more bad outings for that to change, however.
Familiar Faces: The Rangers had some good success against Danks in Chicago last week which forestalled too many painful reminders of trading him away. They'll come in droves should he clip the wings of the risen phoenix that is the Rangers lineup after the return of Cruz and Hamilton. We'll get ahead of the curve and point out that it was an awful trade regardless of what goes down at the Ballpark.