James Shields #33 of the Kansas City Royals throws in the first inning during an interleague game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Kauffman Stadium on May 27, 2013 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
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 Royals were in first place on May 1. Yes, the Kansas City Royals. It appeared the moves they'd made in the off-season to bolster their starting rotation had proven effective and the young prospects they've groomed for so long had finally started hitting. As great as the Royals were over the first month of the season, they've been equally bad in the second month and now sit in last place in the AL Central on the final day of May.
Past 2013 Meetings: This is the teams' first meeting of 2013.
Pitching Matchups: Friday -- Derek Holland (4-2, 2.97 ERA) vs. Wade Davis (3-4, 5.71); Saturday -- Nick Tepesch (3-4, 3.88) vs. James Shields (2-6, 2.96); Sunday -- Yu Darvish (7-2, 3.03) vs. Ervin Santana (3-5, 3.33).
What's Hot: Jurickson Profar has taken the bull by the horns, so to speak, taking full advantage of his playing time due to Ian Kinsler's injury and disabled list stay by being the team's top hitter over the last week. He's now hitting .409 over his last five games with a homer and three RBIs. Nelson Cruz is also heating up after a torrid first month followed by an awful past few weeks. The veteran slugger is hitting .364 with a homer and three RBIs over the last week. The Rangers' winning pieces in their bullpen, minus Joe Nathan, are on fire as Robbie Ross, Tanner Scheppers and Neal Cotts have combined to work 8 2/3 innings over the past week and haven't allowed a single run.
The big talk in Kansas City this off-season was in the Royals' starting pitching acquisitions but the only guys on the mound that have had any success in the last week have been the Royals' bullpen, who've put up zeroes while watching the vaunted starters struggle in recent starts.
What's Not: As if things could get much worse for relief pitcher Michael Kirkman, Thursday's outing might have sealed the lefty's fate with the Rangers after he turned a blowout into an interesting game late. He's out of options, meaning the Rangers can't just send him down to the minors, but you have to think his time in Arlington could be finished.
The Royals' offense has been ice cold, and they finally did something about this week when they relieved their hitting coach of his duties in favor of Hall of Famer and lifelong Royal George Brett. We'll see how that plays out, but it should light a spark with the Royals, if nothing else.
Familiar Faces: There are no players who played for both teams, but the Rangers are awfully familiar with Royals' starting pitcher James Shields, the former Tampa Bay hurler who is scheduled to make the start Saturday opposite Nick Tepesch. Shields has had his way with the Rangers in recent years with a 7-3 career record against the Rangers and a 2.78 ERA -- the best numbers for Shields against any club he's faced more than twice in his career.