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 2013 season.
The Opponent: The Reds sit in third place in the top-heavy NL Central, but if the season ended today they'd still be a Wild Card team as both NL wild cards would come from the Central triumvirate of the Reds, Cardinals and surging Pirates. The Rangers have a one-game advantage over the Reds record-wise, whatever that tells you.
Past 2013 Meetings: The teams have not met as another Interleague matchup comes to Arlington. It marks the first time the teams have met in six years.
Pitching Matchups: Friday — Martin Perez (1-1, 3.65 ERA) vs. Johnny Cueto (4-1, 3.21); Saturday — Nick Tepesch (3-6, 4.60) vs. Mike Leake (7-3, 2.61); Sunday — Yu Darvish (7-3, 2.95) vs. Mat Latos (7-1, 3.05).
What's Hot: Engel Beltre made his big-league starting debut on Thursday, giving Leonys Martin a day off and he made quite the impression, going 2-for-3 with two singles in the Rangers' 2-0 win over the Yankees. He replaced the injured Craig Gentry on the 25-man roster and will maybe get a start a week while likely serving as a pinch-runner from time to time. Elvis Andrus is starting to turn things around with six hits in his last six games, and Ian Kinsler has been hot ever since returning from the DL and actually got his first extra-base hit (a double) since returning from the DL. That Rangers bullpen, despite being overworked, has remained red-hot, led by Neal Cotts and Joe Nathan.
The three pitchers the Rangers will face this weekend happen to be the Reds' three best — an unfortunate draw for Texas. The three have a combined record of 18-5 and a combined ERA of 2.91. Then again, they go up against NL lineups and get to face pitchers. The Rangers handled the Cardinals' two best pitchers last weekend, so it's not an impossible task. The Reds have two MVP candidates in Joey Votto and Jay Bruce, who is on pace to have a record season.
What's Not: His homer on Thursday was the first positive thing Jurickson Profar had done at the plate in a while, as he got his first start in about a week after not starting at all when the Rangers were in an NL park in St. Louis. He'll get some more time this week at home and has a chance to break out of a mini-slump. Yu Darvish needs to have his "A-game" on Sunday against Mat Latos after Ron Washington came out this week and said his ace needs to make some adjustments and throw more heat.
Todd Frazier, Shin-Soo Choo and the second baseman who often draws comparisons with Kinsler, Brandon Phillips are a combined 3-for their last 41 at-bats. The Rangers could really get some benefit from that continuing through the weekend. As good as Cueto has been this year, he wasn't good his last time out, giving up seven runs on 11 hits in just 4 1/3 innings. Flame-throwing closer Aroldis Chapman allowed three runs on four hits and took a loss.
Familiar Faces: Nothing really to see here, but these two teams did pull off one of the most influential and lopsided trades in recent memory when they swapped prospects as the Rangers sent pitcher Edinson Volquez to the Reds for troubled prospect Josh Hamilton. The rest is history.