Josh Hamilton, after signing with the Angels.
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 Angels are coming off a hard-fought series with another contender in one of the early National League favorites, the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds took two of three with both Angels losses being by one run. The Angels lineup is stacked with a second-year Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and free agent addition Josh Hamilton but the pitching staff will be where the Angels sink or swim.
Past 2012 Meetings: This is the first meeting of 2013 between the heated AL West rivals and is a three-game series.
Pitching Matchups: Friday — Jason Vargas (0-0, NA) vs. Derek Holland (0-0, NA); Saturday — Tommy Hanson (0-0, NA) vs. Matt Harrison (0-1, 7.94 ERA); Sunday — Jered Weaver (0-0, 1.50) vs. Yu Darvish (1-0, 0.00).
What's Hot: The Rangers pitching struck out an MLB record 43 batters in the opening three-game series against the Houston Astros and became the first team since 1900 to have two straight 15-strikeout shutouts in the opening series of a season. Each of the Rangers' first three starters — Harrison, Darvish and Alexi Ogando — posted career-high strikeout totals.
The Rangers' offense, which was dormant in the season-opening loss to the Houston Astros, has picked up its pace in the last two games, led by Lance Berkman (6-for-10, 3 RBIs) and Nelson Cruz (6-for-12, 3 RBIs). Elvis Andrus followed up a two-triple night on Tuesday by signing an eight-year contract extension on Thursday afternoon.
Weaver threw six innings of two-hit ball in the Angels' season-opening win and the Angels' top hitter through three games has been shortstop Erick Aybar (5-for-14).
What's Not: Everyone's making a huge deal out of Houston's 43 strikeouts through the first three games, but the Angels struck out 36 times in their three-game set with the Reds, which included a 13-inning game. Josh Hamilton finally got his first hit of the season on Thursday, but struck out with the tying run in scoring position for the final out of a 5-4 loss. He leads the team with six strikeouts through three games, while Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo each have five.
Adrian Beltre was in a funk at the plate of Hamilton proportions before getting singles in his last two at-bats on Wednesday, raising his average to .154. Harrison will look to bounce back on Saturday after giving up six runs in 5 2/3 innings in Sunday's season-opening loss.
Familiar Faces: Where do you begin? Rangers fans now have someone else to boo as Hamilton will make his return to Rangers Ballpark for the first time as a member of the Rangers' fiercest rival. He, of course, joins C.J. Wilson, the Angels' No. 2 pitcher who left Arlington for Anaheim following the 2011 season. Former Rangers reliever Mark Lowe, who fell out of favor with Ron Washington and was cut loose this past offseason, has tossed four innings of scoreless relief for the Angels and picked up a win on Opening Day after striking out three in two innings in an extra-innings win over the Reds.