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: There have been worse times to catch the Oakland A's, but not many outside of their dynasty in the early 1970s and their steroid-fueled mini-dynasty in the late 1980s. The A's have lost 11 of their last 14 games, taking a quick and expected tumble into the AL West cellar. A Rangers team looking to solidify their division lead couldn't ask for much more.
Past 2012 Meetings: The two teams split a pair of games in mid-May. The highlight of the brief set came in the second game when the Rangers tied the game on a squeeze bunt that might have been caught by Brandon McCarthy on a fly. The umps ruled otherwise, but the A's went on to win the game anyway.
Pitching Matchups: Monday - Scott Feldman (0-3, 4.50 ERA) vs. Jarrod Parker (1-2, 2.88); Tuesday - Derek Holland (4-4, 5.11) vs. Travis Blackley (0-0, 0.82); Wednesday - Colby Lewis (4-4, 3.50) vs. Bartolo Colon (4-6, 4.34); Thursday - Yu Darvish (7-3, 3.21) vs. Brandon McCarthy (4-3, 2.95)
What's Hot: It wasn't a very good weekend for the Rangers in terms of results -- they lost two of three to the Angels -- but, oddly, it provided reassurance that all is pretty well in Texas. They got more baserunners over the course of the series, enough that they should have scored more than 3.7 runs per contest, and wound up shooting themselves in the feet with the kinds of mental and physical errors that are rare enough to write things off as a temporal issue.
The A's got Cuban defector Yoenis Cespedes back over the weekend, giving their lineup a bat that it desperately needs in order to stop the losing jag that they've been on for the last two weeks. Manny Ramirez isn't too far behind Cespedes. Whether or not he makes the A's a better offensive team remains to be seen, but he'll certainly make them a more interesting one.
Mike Napoli had a nice weekend in Anaheim -- 4-for-8 -- and that could be a good sign of things to come unless it was just fueled by residual angst for the Angels dumping him in a trade. If it is, it is well past time to let things go. The deal has worked out quite well for Napoli.
What's Not: Singling out any member of the A's offense for individual flogging seems quite unfair given just how bad everyone other than Josh Reddick, Cespedes and Jonny Gomes (if you're being generous) have been this season. If they make a movie about this A's team, it will have to be in an obscure language with no subtitles to convey how hard they are to watch.
While the miscues of the weekend in Anaheim weren't par for the course, they do act as a reminder of why people make such a big deal about the fundamentals. It's the great equalizer between teams and it is one that the Rangers should be mindful of as they make their way through the rest of the season.
Matt Harrison answered the call for better work over the weekend, which leaves Derek Holland all alone on the island of disappointing lefties. He'll have a chance to get off that island this week, but a failure against this lineup might wind up making him the island's Prime Minister.
Familiar Faces: Given how many retreads there are running around Oakland these days, it's a bit surprising that McCarthy remains the only former Ranger on the roster. That probably says something good about the Rangers system these days. Even the players not good enough to play for Texas are too good to play for Oakland.