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 2012 season.
The Opponent: The Yankees hold a significant place in the psychology of the Rangers. They consistently thumped them in the playoffs when the Rangers first got good, which only added to the Yankees being the blueprint for a consistently successful Texas team. As a result, beating them in the ALCS two years ago felt much more significant than beating the White Sox would have been. And now they've kinda become the Yankees. The two teams are essentially tied at the top of the American League after going through remarkably similar seasons in terms of battling through injuries and getting criticized heavily for every misstep as if they weren't the two best teams in the league.
Past 2012 Meetings: The Rangers took two of three all the way back in April. To illustrate just how long ago that was, Yu Darvish pitched a shutout and it seemed like there were nothing blue skies ahead for a rookie not yet through his first month in the big leagues.
Pitching Matchups: Monday - Ryan Dempster (1-0, 6.35 ERA) vs. David Phelps (2-3, 2.42); Tuesday - Matt Harrison (13-6, 3.31) vs. Hiroki Kuroda (10-8, 3.24); Wednesday - Scott Feldman (6-7, 4.64) vs. Freddy Garcia (6-5, 4.85); Thursday - Derek Holland (7-6, 4.92) vs. Ivan Nova (11-6, 4.70)
What's Hot: The Josh Hamilton train is back in order and it's not showing any sign of slowing down. In a season where absolutely everything Hamilton has done has become fodder for discussion about his impending free agency, this hot streak and the Rangers' overall offensive turnaround is a big pro to the arguments in favor of re-signing Hamilton.
Speaking of coming contract maelstroms, the Yankees are going to have to deal with a contract for Robinson Cano at some point soon and the negotiations may make this Hamilton mess seem like a walk in the park. Cano's in the midst of what could well turn out to be the best season of his career, which is saying something since he's been at least a down-ballot MVP candidate in each of the last three years.
Dempster is coming off a good start and taming the Yankees in the Bronx would be a very positive sign for his chances of hanging in the American League over the rest of the season. It doesn't need to be a shutout, but getting strafed wouldn't do much to fill the heart with confidence about his chances over the long haul.
What's Not: CC Sabathia went on the disabled list over the weekend, which is why Phelps will start on Monday night. It's Sabathia's second trip to the disabled list and he's not a player the Yankees can really afford to lose for more than a couple of trips to the rotation without hurting their chances of making the playoffs.
Mike Olt got three at-bats last week. Michael Young got 21 of them. We get that Ron Washington feels more comfortable with veterans, we just don't get why Olt needs to be sitting on the bench to watch them play.
Remember up top when we said that the Rangers and Yankees catch heavy criticism for the slightest stumble? It gets pretty tiresome over the course of an 162-game schedule, especially when the overall picture remains bright for both teams. Anyone who has watched baseball before is aware that the key is getting to the playoffs because anything can happen once you're there and these two teams have proven pretty adept at getting that done. So why bother sweating the small stuff?
Familiar Faces: Alex Rodriguez is injured, but Mark Teixeira and Andruw Jones will be kicking it in the Bronx this week. The face that jumps out belongs to a player who never played for the Rangers, though. Ichiro Suzuki is a Yankee and that's something that's going to take a while to get used to after so many years watching him with the Mariners.