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: Interleague play gets underway in the City of Brotherly Love as the Rangers roll into Philly to face off with the GREATEST ROTATION IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. A bit aggressive? Sure, but we're just repeating what we were told endlessly during this offseason.
Past 2011 Meetings: Nope. The Phillies have won four of the six previous meetings between the teams, including a sweep in 2005.
Pitching Matchups: Friday - C.J. Wilson (4-2, 3.38 ERA) vs. Roy Halladay (5-3, 2.21); Saturday - Colby Lewis (4-4, 3.81) vs. Cliff Lee (2-4, 3.84); Sunday - Matt Harrison (3-4, 4.27) vs. Roy Oswalt (3-1, 3.09)
What's Hot: Okay, we kinda mocked it up top, but that Phillies rotation has been pretty darn good this season. The Rangers have the good fortune to miss Cole Hamels this weekend, but the three guys they will face are more than good enough to make the Rangers sick to their stomachs. That would be unfortunate because no trip to Philly is complete without a few delectable cheesesteaks.
Raul Ibanez went on an epic run of futility earlier this season when he went 35 at-bats without a hit. Things have turned around for him in May, however, as he's hitting .339 with a couple of home runs. As you'll see below, the Phillies are thrilled for even that relatively modest production.
Endy Chavez has hit .304 in the last week. That might not seem like much of something to wave antlers about, but there's kind of a paucity of things to feel wonderful about with the Rangers right now. Their successes of late (starting pitching) have been mitigated but their failings (relief pitching) just enough to make it hard to get excited.
What's Not: We just mentioned it, but the nightly games of Russian Roulette with the Rangers bullpen have grown awfully tiresome. Now that Neftali Feliz, once the one guy you could count on, has blown two straight saves, it might be better to just keep starters in the game until the end regardless of the situation. It's an unorthodox solution, to be sure, but thinking inside the box isn't getting us anywhere.
This might be a good weekend to implement plan All Starters. The Phillies offense is almost as bad as their pitching is good as evidenced by their five game run with two or fewer runs on the scoreboard. Missing Chase Utley hurts, so does the hole in Ryan Howard's bat and now Shane Victorino is hurt.
Have you heard that there's a chance the world is coming to an end on Saturday? We've been pretty reluctant to buy into the latest wave of Rapture-hype, but then we realized who would be pitching against the Rangers on the big day.
Familiar Faces: Yes, if there is an apocalypse this weekend it will come during the Rangers' reunion with Cliff Lee. Frankly, that seems a bit too right to feel fully comfortable about buying plane tickets for the 23rd.
Lee hasn't been the dominant man we saw during the postseason, but all signs point to the return of those days. His strikeout rate is through the roof, his walk rate is still low and if he gets a little help from his defense he could go on a big time roll. Rapture willing, of course.