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On Deck: Rangers vs. Mariners

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On Deck: Rangers vs. Mariners

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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: There's something right about the Mariners being the first opponent Yu Darvish faces in the major leagues. They helped pave the way for his arrival with Ichiro Suzuki, they are owned by Nintendo and they started the 2012 season with two games in Japan against the A's. It doesn't hurt that their offense should make for a soft landing, either.

2011 Rewind: The Mariners had another disappointing season in 2011 and the offense was the prime culprit once again. They scored the fewest runs in the American League, which led to 67 wins and many a wasted pitching performance. You can't win if you can't score and changing that will be essential to the Mariners' hopes of improving their win total this time around.

Pitching Matchups: Monday - Hector Noesi (2-2, 4.47 ERA with Yankees in 2011) vs. Darvish (first MLB start); Tuesday - Blake Beavan (5-6, 4.27 in 2011) vs. Neftali Feliz (2-3, 2.74, 32 saves in 2011); Wednesday - Kevin Millwood (4-3, 3.98 with Rockies in 2011) vs. Colby Lewis (1-0, 3.00); Thursday - Jason Vargas (1-0, 2.31) vs. Derek Holland (0-0, 4.50)

What's Hot: After all the hype and all the waiting, we finally get to see Darvish on Monday night. It seems unnatural to feel this much excitement about a rookie pitcher when the Rangers have made two straight World Series appearances, but Darvish isn't an ordinary rookie. There's the Japanese experience, obviously, but also the fact that his right arm holds much of the promise in the short and long term for the team.

The jury is still out on the Mariners offensive future, but they seem to have found a worthy foundation to build around. Jesus Montero, Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak have all shown great promise in their short professional careers and they are being counted on as anchors for a brighter tomorrow in Seattle.

David Murphy isn't going to keep hitting the way he did in the first three games, but anything close will make the decision to move Josh Hamilton back to center field a winning one for the rangers. Five hits in nine at-bats, including three extra-base knocks, is a mighty nice way to get the year going.

What's Not: Joe Nathan had a mixed weekend with one save and one loss, but the second result is the one that will linger. Giving up a home run to Alex Rios in the ninth inning of a tie game is exactly what you don't want from your closer. It won't take too many more of those for the natives to get restless.

Montero, Ackley and Smoak provide the promise, but the rest of the Mariners lineup still looks putrid. It won't be enough for the Mariners to get solid years from that trio if they hope to improve their offensive standing in 2012. They'll need years that confirm their advance billing.

Trading Michael Pineda for Montero made a lot of sense, but it did leave the Mariners with an underpowered back of the rotation. Noesi, Beavan and Millwood are not an impressive group -- even if they are placeholders for highly touted prospects -- and the season could get ugly quickly with them going three of every five days.

Familiar Faces: There aren't any former Rangers on the Mariners, but the Chone Figgins that's hitting .412 is the same one that fell off the face of the Earth when he left the Angels for Seattle before the 2010 season. Expecting a full rebound at the age of 34 isn't advisable, but maybe he can do just enough to salvage something from one of the worst free agent signings of all time.

Related Topics Rangers, Mariners, Yu Darvish, On Deck
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