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 American League Championship Series rematch is too big to just be a three-game series. It's a supersized four games in Detroit for the Rangers, although there are some differences from the last time these teams met. Prince Fielder now mashes in the middle of the Tiger lineup, a big (in every way) addition to an already good team. Victor Martinez is out with a knee injury and let's hope the meterological whiz kids that rained out a game on a night without rain last October are also on the sidelines.
2011 Rewind: The Tigers won the Central last year behind Miguel Cabrera and Justin Verlander, who won the AL MVP and Cy Young Awards. They had a deep lineup, a deep rotation and a spotless regular season from closer Jose Valverde. They couldn't beat the Nelson Cruz Experience in the ALCS, though.
Pitching Matchups: Thursday - Yu Darvish (1-0, 4.76) vs. Adam Wilk (0-1, 3.60); Friday - Matt Harrison (2-0, 0.64) vs. Rick Porcello (1-0, 1.84); Saturday - Neftali Feliz (1-0, 2.25) vs. Verlander (1-1, 2.13); Sunday - Colby Lewis (2-0, 1.83) vs. Drew Smyly (0-0, 0.90)
What's Hot: Does just saying the Rangers suffice? Six straight wins, including a pair of beatdowns of the Red Sox in Fenway the last two days, have left the Rangers with the best winning percentage in the entire league. You can nit pick and find some flaws, but it isn't easy.
The Tigers aren't far behind. They've won nine of 12 to start the season and the Fielder/Cabrera pairing is working out exactly as planned. Austin Jackson's brilliant start has been a happy surprise for the team and if he keeps breaking out this will likely be one of the two or three best offenses in all of baseball.
Just look at those ERAs in the pitching matchups. This is going to be some seriously good baseball, boys and girls. Smyly and Wilk are new names, but each has hit the ground running and made the loss of Doug Fister less of a concern for the Tigers.
What's Not: Maybe a return to the scene of his heroics will be the thing to get Cruz's bat untracked this season. He's been one of the only Rangers not to break out of the gate with their hair on fire, which isn't particularly alarming given his streakiness. Given the upcoming schedule, it would be swell if he went on on tear.
It's shocking that Delmon Young is just 26 years old. This is his eighth season in the major leagues so it seems like he should be older. Or maybe that's just because he hasn't progressed one iota from the free swinging hacker he was when he entered the league.
The prospect of Valverde saving a game this weekend is high, which means we'll be forced to watch his gyrations on the mound after the final out. It's an April save, friend, not the cure for cancer.
Familiar Faces: Joaquin Benoit and Gerald Laird used to play in Texas, but, really, everyone's awfully familiar after last season. The exception is Fielder, of course. The first AL meeting with him is going to be interesting, especially for those who think the Rangers should have made a bigger play for the first baseman.