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: The start of interleague play agreed with the Mariners. They swept the Rockies to lift themselves back into third place in the AL West. Those wins helped put a happier face on what's been a rough month for Seattle. They allowed just seven runs in the three games, a clear sign of what the Mariners need to do to win games.
Past 2012 Meetings: It's the first rematch of the 2012 season for the Rangers. They won three of four from the Mariners in April, a series highlighted by Yu Darvish's first major league start and Joe Nathan's second rocky performance in the first week of the season.
Pitching Matchups: Monday - Darvish (6-1, 2.60 ERA) vs. Felix Hernandez (3-3, 3.02); Tuesday - Matt Harrison (4-3, 5.21) vs. Hector Noesi (2-4, 5.61); Wednesday - Neftali Feliz (3-1, 3.16) vs. Kevin Millwood (2-4, 4.17)
What's Hot: We can't know whether the matchup will live up to the hype, but Darvish against Hernandez is the kind of game that promises great riches. The best part about it is that there figure to be a lot more of them in the years to come. Hernandez is 26, Darvish will turn 26 in August and that should lead to regular meetings between two of the more exciting pitchers in baseball today.
There aren't many impressive offensive players on the Mariners, but third baseman Kyle Seager deserves a little bit of love. Seager isn't a player the Mariners were expecting to be a key part of their lineup, but he's been the team's best hitter through the first quarter of the season. If some of the expected leaders find their groove, the Mariners may be able to lift themselves from all bad to half bad when they are at the plate.
We mentioned Nathan's rough outing against the Mariners up top so we should probably point out that any worry was just an overreaction to a couple of stumbles. Nathan has allowed one earned run in the 13.2 innings he's pitched since that loss to Seattle and that run came when the Rangers were putting the final touches on a blowout of the Angels.
What's Not: Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero remain young, promising players but the Mariners would probably like to see a bit more from them in the here and now. Montero hasn't been able to crack a .300 on-base percentage and Ackley isn't able to hit the ball with enough power to satisfy Seattle's needs. The tricky part about building around youth is figuring out when it will cease to be about tomorrow and start being about today.
Feliz didn't look good against Houston and would have allowed more than one run against a more talented offense. Seattle isn't that offense, but it would still be nice to see a bit more command from Feliz as he settles into his role as a starting pitcher.
The search for Mike Napoli's hot streak remains in effect. Napoli had another bad week and he's been unable to put together any kind of positive momentum over the first quarter of the season. Some regression was unavoidable after last season but the Rangers catcher has taken things even further.
Familiar Faces: If Justin Smoak developed into a superstar, there might have been some remorse for the Cliff Lee trade. Smoak hasn't developed that way, not even close, and the Rangers can't feel bad about letting the Mariners get their hooks into a player who hasn't even turned into a reliable starter.