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's another four-game set for the Rangers, but this time they'll be squaring off with a divisional foe. The A's are on the other side of the diamond for the first time this season and if they are three games behind the Angels in what's a tight early race in the AL West.
Pitching Matchups: Friday - C.J. Wilson (3-0, 3.51 ERA) vs. Trevor Cahill (3-0, 2.30); Saturday - Colby Lewis (1-3, 6.95) vs. Brett Anderson (2-1, 1.56); Sunday - Matt Harrison (3-2, 3.69) vs. Gio Gonzalez (2-2, 2.70); Monday - Derek Holland (3-1, 5.12) vs. Brandon McCarthy (1-2, 3.57)
What's Hot: The Oakland starting rotation was heavily hyped coming into the season and it has lived up to advance billing to this point. Cahill, Anderson and Gonzalez are three of the best young pitchers in the entire league, which is a big reason why he A's have the best team ERA in baseball. The bullpen has also been pretty good despite missing Andrew Bailey, so runs will be at a premium.
A's outfielder Coco Crisp let his hair go au naturel earlier this month and that's a move we support under any circumstances. It looks even better since he's been hitting well since making the change. He's hit .500 in his last five games, although he's dealing with a quad injury that could keep him out of action.
Nothing too hot too report from the Rangers at the moment, so we'll point to the encouraging news about Neftali Feliz's recovery. He's on target for a return next week and that works well for a team that's scuffling more than a little bit at present.
What's Not: The Oakland pitching has been better than advertised, but their hitting hasn't quite experienced the rejuvenation that many expected in the run-up to the season. The team is hitting just .236 overall and they've hit only 11 home runs. Offseason acquisitions Hideki Matsui and Josh Willingham haven't done much of anything to help out their outstanding pitching staff.
This is the first time this season that we're putting the Rangers as a whole in this section, but they really deserve it. It isn't because they lost three of four to the Jays, these things happen in a long season. It is because they played incredibly sloppy baseball over the series with Thursday's ninth inning serving as a microcosm. They lost a game on a bunt and two errors and that's beating yourself.
And, in closing, we'll point out that Oakland plays in a perennial entry in the not hot column. It is a drab, dispiriting throwback to the days of multipurpose stadiums that isn't helped by the fact that it is rarely more than half full for a baseball game. As bad as it has always been, things got even worse recently when they sold the naming rights and renamed the place the Overstock.com Coliseum.
Familiar Faces: McCarthy was a bitter disappointment for the Rangers after coming over in a trade with the White Sox in 2006. He was hurt for much of his time in Texas and didn't pitch particularly well during his years with the Rangers. Even worse, John Danks, the man he was traded for, has developed into a fine starter with Chicago while the Rangers have found themselves consistently short a man in the rotation.
Ron Washington should also find a few familiar faces in Oakland. He spent more than a decade there as a coach before getting the Rangers job so he likely knows all the best places to get a post-game snack.