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: This series was looming in the back of everyone's mind throughout the second half of the season. Any Rangers loss or little spurt by the Angels meant that you remembered that the regular season would end with three games in Anaheim. Keeping this series from meaning anything was crucial for the Rangers and they accomplished their mission.
Past 2011 Meetings: The Rangers have a 9-7 edge in the series to date, but their play against the Angels in August was a big part of why the Angels stand on the brink of elimination. The Rangers won five of seven games against the Angels in August, allowing them to always keep enough of a cushion that panic remained nowhere close to the surface.
Pitching Matchups: Monday - C.J. Wilson (16-7, 2.97 ERA) vs. Dan Haren (16-9, 3.16); Tuesday - Colby Lewis (13-10, 4.45) vs. Ervin Santana (11-12, 3.38); Wednesday - Matt Harrison (14-9, 3.46) vs. Jered Weaver (18-8, 2.41)
What's Hot: The fact that the AL West doesn't hinge on this series is an awfully good thing for the Rangers. That's not because they wouldn't win the games or because the Angels are a better team, it's just because it is nice to have a moment to catch your breath before the start of the playoffs.
Michael Young's bid to win the American League batting crown puts a smile on the face. Young's move from disgruntled trade seeker to key cog in the offense has been one of the more entertaining storylines of the season. Ending the story with a batting title would be too much for a movie script, but it feels right for real life.
The Angels' decision not to do anything to help their offense was definitely one that the Rangers enjoyed. When you see those three starters fronting a rotation, the expectation is that you're going to have a much better team than the Angels produced this season.
What's Not: Chief among the reasons why it is a good thing that this series means nothing to the Rangers is the fact that Wilson is pitching tonight. He threw a blister in his last start and is needed to start Game One of the ALDS on Friday, which means he can't go deep in the game and he can't be pushed if the blister problem reappears. He'll throw a bit tonight and then start resting up, which should work well for everyone.
The Rangers enter the series with a game on the Tigers for home field in the first round of the playoffs, something that would be nice but isn't worth doing anything in particular to achieve. You'd rather have a well-rested Rangers team going to the Bronx than one that's compromised hosting a game this weekend. Play to win, obviously, but only risk what you're willing to lose.
With Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos, the Angels are starting to fix that terrible offense. Match that with the strength in their rotation and the return of Kendry Morales and you've got the making of a team that's going to make life miserable for the Rangers next season.
Familiar Faces: The Angels traded Mike Napoli to the Blue Jays for Vernon Wells. Napoli then came to the Rangers for Frank Francisco. Napoli has 5.4 Wins Above Replacement this season. Wells has -0.1 and Francisco has 0.4. The difference between the Angels and Rangers is more than five wins, but this deal had a lot to do with how the West was won.