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: It's one last visit with the Seattle Mariners. If it feels like the Rangers play the Seattle nine every other series, it's partially because they play each other 19 times a year and partly because they just played each other last weekend. There are worse fates, most of them involving playing decent teams.
Past 2012 Meetings: The Rangers extended their lead in the season series to 9-7 by taking two out of three from the Mariners in Texas last week. While that's not as one-sided as you might like to see given the talent disparity between the two teams, it's enough to make you think that the Rangers should be able to extend their cushion over the weekend.
Pitching Matchups: Friday - Martin Perez (1-1, 3.38 ERA) vs. Hisashi Iwakuma (6-5, 3.39); Saturday - Matt Harrison (17-9, 3.26) vs. Blake Beavan (9-10, 4.88); Sunday - Ryan Dempster (6-2, 4.70) vs. Jason Vargas (14-10, 3.92)
What's Hot: This could be the final meaningful weekend of the regular season. If the Rangers are able to at least maintain their lead of four games over the A's, the chances of them losing that lead over the final 10 games will drop to miniscule levels. Yes, they've got seven games left with Oakland, but the A's would have to pretty much win out to move ahead of the Rangers.
Getting Martin Perez experience is only going to help the team moving forward, either because he'll be in the rotation or because he'll be trade bait to get someone helpful onto the roster next year. You could quibble and say that the Rangers should have had the guts to turn to Perez before shuffling though veteran discards like Roy Oswalt and Scott Feldman, but we're all about the positivity in these parts.
We're really searching for something to put in here about the Mariners, but it's pretty hard to find much of anything to be excited about in Seattle. So we'll just tip our cap to Eric Wedge for getting 70 wins out of this team.
What's Not: Dempster stumbled on his last trip to the mound, continuing a trend where he pitches well against bad teams and struggles against good ones. We'll see if the trend holds on Sunday, but it won't quiet any playoff concerns.
If Dustin Ackley and Jesus Montero are really going to form the foundation of a winning Mariners team in the years to come, at least one of them is going to have to be able to attain a 700 OPS over the course of a season. Building around youth isn't guaranteed to work, a painful lesson that Seattle learned this year.
This whole Josh Hamilton situation went from frustrating to legitimately worrisome pretty quickly. The Rangers could survive without him, but they probably can't thrive.
Familiar Faces: Justin Smoak has actually started to resemble a major leaguer. He's hit very well in September, which will likely lead to a lot of "Justin Smoak is putting it all together" articles come the spring. We don't wish Smoak ill, but we're also not buying the legitimacy of any major change in his abilities.