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: It is tough to call any series make or break before the end of July, but the Angels might not agree with that assessment. They have lost 2.5 games to the Rangers since the All-Star break and if they stop the streak right here then the AL West will be a two game race. They have their pitching set up to do just that, but their offense might not be up to the task of avoiding a replay of 2010.
Past 2011 Meetings: The two teams have split their six games this season with the Angels taking two of three in the previous series in Anaheim. They scored 15 runs in one of those wins, something that is hard to imagine happening this time around.
Pitching Matchups: Tuesday - Alexi Ogando (9-3, 2.92) vs. Tyler Chatwood (5-5, 3.62); Wednesday - Derek Holland (8-4, 4.32) vs. Dan Haren (10-6, 2.75); Thursday - C.J. Wilson (10-3, 3.11) vs. Jered Weaver (12-4, 1.90)
What's Hot: The Rangers have won 11 straight games and are three away from tying the franchise record winning streak. The pitching has been the main driver of the run, although you can't discount the impact Ian Kinsler has been having at the top of the lineup either. And, while we're at it, a little credit to Josh Hamilton and Adrian Beltre for driving in runs every chance they get. It would probably be easier to point out the few guys who aren't playing well, but that kinda misses the point.
Holland is riding two straight shutouts into Wednesday night's start, the longest such streak of any Rangers pitcher since 1983. He'll give up another run eventually, but if he can keep on throwing gems in the weeks to come it is hard to believe the Rangers won't remain ahead of the Angels and everyone else in the division.
Weaver started the All-Star Game last week, which tells you everything you need to know about his season. Haren pitched the Sunday before the Game or he probably would have also been on Ron Washington's staff. Chatwood has done well as a rookie, but it remains to be seen if his 1:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio can get the job done against the Rangers.
What's Not: The Angels rank 12th in the American League in runs scored which is a big reason why they weren't able to make more waves when the Rangers were scuffling during the first half. Two of the main culprits are Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter, neither of whom is playing like the well-paid corner outfielder that they are.
It sounds like Nolan Ryan's okay after his recent trip to the hospital. We're hopeful things remain that way because it is clear his influence is a good one on the organization and because we generally don't like to see people in pain or suffering.
Mike Trout is one of the biggest prospects in all of baseball, but he's proving right now that it isn't easy to make the jump to the show. Called up before the break to replace the injured Peter Bourjos in center, Trout has just three hits in his first 24 at-bats. That doesn't mean the hype wasn't justified, just that it takes a while to learn to swim. Apologies for the fish-related pun, but you can probably get used to Trout taking the place of former Angel Tim Salmon as the go-to in that department.
Familiar Faces: Still no former Rangers on the Angels, but Mike Napoli gets to say hello to old friends in a return trip to Anaheim. Napoli has been on a serious offensive tear, something we expected to see, but he's also got the lowest catcher's ERA of any backstop in the American League. It's not a stat that one can really use to make sweeping judgments about a player, but it would seem that the Angels' concerns about his defense were a little overblown.