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: Another series went up in smoke on Monday when Hideki Matsui went yard, which means the Rangers head to the Pacific Northwest in the throes of a genuine slump. The Mariners, with their losing record and -14 run differential, would seem to be just what the doctor ordered. The fact that they are only three games out of first with that resume suggests otherwise, however.
Pitching Matchups: Tuesday - Alexi Ogando (3-0, 2.30 ERA) vs. Erik Bedard (1-4, 5.96); Wednesday - C.J. Wilson (3-1, 3.55) vs. Michael Pineda (4-1, 2.01); Thursday - Colby Lewis (2-3, 5.70) vs. Jason Vargas (1-2, 5.45)
What's Hot: Pineda has been one of the biggest surprises of the entire baseball world so far this season after unexpectedly making the Mariners out of spring training. The Rangers handed him his only loss in April, but he pitched well that night and has yet to turn in anything less than a quality start. The thought of Pineda playing prince to King Felix Hernandez for the next few years can't make for many smiles in the rest of the AL West.
Ichiro Suzuki's numbers don't seem all that impressive compared to the very high standard he set for himself, but a closer look shows that he's still a very productive offensive player who makes life miserable for the opposition because of his speed. His defense is also strong and it's a shame that no broadcaster has instituted the Ichiro-cam because there are few players more fun to watch.
Not much is going right for the Rangers, but Michael Young's bat remains a bright spot. He's driven in 10 runs over the last seven days, leaving one to shudder to think about what this team's record would be if they traded him in the offseason.
What's Not: The defense, the pitching, the hitting and probably the food on the Rangers' charter flights. Nothing is really working right now. We'd suggest making some antlers to try to change the fortunes, but it would probably result in a handful of broken fingers.
Has there ever been a player who fell off a cliff faster than Chone Figgins? He was a star with the Angels for years who changed games by getting on base and using his speed to create runs. Since signing with the Mariners before last season, he's turned into a below average hitter who isn't on base nearly enough to make his speed anything more than a sideshow.
It's great to see Bedard back on the mound after missing all of 2010 because of injury, but he hasn't been the same pitcher since getting hurt. It's an old story, but you never stop feeling bad for guys who get to the cusp of stardom but no further.
Familiar Faces: Usually you rue letting go of players who post a 161 OPS+ during their one season wearing your uniform, but there's nothing usual about Milton Bradley. Once a supremely talented player battling behavioral issues, he's now just a drag on and off the field. If the Mariners had any kind of offensive depth, he'd be unemployed but, for now, he's still plugging away and falling well short of earning his salary.
No one is looking to redo the Cliff Lee trade, but Justin Smoak is starting to show the talent that allowed the Rangers to use him to grab the lefty last season. He's hitting .273 with four homers and has been the only positive part of the non-Ichiro offense.