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: Playoff preview alert! Both the Rangers and Tigers are in first place as this series gets underway, which means you'll probably hear someone refer to it as a possible preview of October action. The only problem with that is that, barring a massive collapse by the Red Sox or Yankees, these teams can't meet until the ALCS. So let's just call it a good road test of the revamped Rangers.
Past 2011 Meetings: Were this a playoff preview, it wouldn't look that good for the Rangers. They've lost four of six to the Tigers this season, losing one series at home in June and another in Detroit in April. That first visit to Detroit featured Josh Hamilton's injury at home plate, so let's not tempt fate and send him unless there's a little more certainty about the outcome, OK?
Pitching Matchups: Tuesday - Colby Lewis (10-8, 4.00 ERA) vs. Max Scherzer (11-6, 4.28); Wednesday - Matt Harrison (9-7, 2.94) vs. Doug Fister (3-12, 3.33 with Seattle); Thursday - Alexi Ogando (10-5, 2.88) vs. Brad Penny (7-8, 4.89)
What's Hot: Everyone is excited to get a look at the new Rangers relievers Mike Adams and Koji Uehara. Every time the Rangers have gone to the bullpen in a close game this season it has been cause for nervous tics to show themselves on the faces of everyone rooting for a win. Now, though, the Rangers have added a pair of strong arms to pave the way to Neftali Feliz and it will be interesting to see how big the moves pay off.
The Tigers also made some moves before the deadline. They acquired Fister and reliever David Pauley from the Mariners and Fister could wind up being a major determining factor in the AL Central race. Detroit hasn't gotten much from their rotation after Justin Verlander and Fister pitched much better in Seattle than his record might indicate.
Since we're on the subject of trades, how about some belated congratulations to Jon Daniels for snagging Mike Napoli before the season? It seems like everytime Ron Washington puts Napoli in the lineup, he is rewarded with a home run or big hit. He hit .443 with five homers in July and has 15 homers in 197 at-bats on the year.
What's Not: Hamilton's injury isn't the only bad memory the Rangers have of Comerica Park. They've lost 14 of their last 17 games at the home of the Tigers and Tuesday night could be more of the same. The Tigers are sixth in the AL in homers, Lewis has allowed the most homers in the league and the Tigers tattooed him for a season-worst nine runs in June.
July was a surprisingly quiet month for Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera. One of the best hitters in the league posted a mediocre .250 batting average for the month and teams are making more of an effort to make sure he isn't the guy who beats them. Since Cabrera's down month still featured five homers, that's probably a good strategy.
Now that the bullpen's been shored up, the Rangers should put in a little effort to improve their defense. The team has made the most errors in baseball, which can be misinterpreted as a sign of poor overall defense. In this case, though, the Rangers have a losing record when they make an error so it would seem that sloppiness is taking its toll on the club.
Familiar Faces: Joaquin Benoit had two bad months to start the season, but he's been much better since the start of June. He has a 2.00 ERA over 18 innings in that span and has struck out a batter an inning for the Tigers. That's coincided with the Tigers climbing back into and then to the top of the divisional race, so it looks like a widely ridiculed signing might still turn out well for Detroit.