Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera celebrates after hitting a two-run home run in the fourth inning during Game 4 of the American League championship series against the New York Yankees Thursday, Oct. 18, 2012, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
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 Tigers have one of the most feared lineups in baseball and are relatively hot heading into the series with a 7-3 mark over their last 10 games as the first-place team in the AL Central. Detroit's Comerica Park has traditionally been a house of horrors for the Rangers.
Past 2013 Meetings: The Rangers are 3-1 so far this season against the Tigers and have really gotten to Tigers pitching, but that was back in May before the Rangers' offense hit a cold spell that seems to be a pretty constant problem right now with the occasional outburst mixed in. The Rangers scored 29 runs in the four-game series in May, including a one-run effort in their only loss with Rick Porcello on the bump for the Tigers.
Pitching Matchups: Friday — Justin Grimm (7-6, 5.88 ERA) vs. Doug Fister (6-5, 4.07); Saturday — Derek Holland (7-4, 3.19) vs. Max Scherzer (13-0, 3.06); Sunday — Martin Perez (3-1, 2.08) vs. Justin Verlander (9-6, 3.71).
What's Hot: When he's dropped in the order recently, Elvis Andrus has started to find his stroke at the plate, when he's back in the 2-hole like he was Thursday night, he's had a rough go. Time to let the shortstop find his swing again in the 7- or 8-hole. Adrian Beltre is en fuego, hitting .500 over the last week with four homers and nine RBIs and was named the AL Player of the Week, and Nelson Cruz has yet to cool off much either staying pretty consistently good with a .345 average, two homers and seven RBIs over the week. Perez, who will close the series out on Sunday, has been a welcome addition to the starting rotation since replacing Alexi Ogando last month, and that bullpen is still hot but with some different faces like Jason Frasor, Cory Burns and Joakim Soria carrying the load.
What a shock, Miguel Cabrera and traditional Ranger-killer Torii Hunter are hot. Go figure. Cabrera is hitting .393 with four homers and nine RBIs over the last week — identical to Beltre's HR and RBI clip. Hunter is hitting .357 with two bombs and seven RBIs — identical to Cruz's HR and RBI clip over the last week. Talk about symmetry. DH Victor Martinez is hitting an unreal .556 with five RBIs over the same stretch. The Tigers' bullpen is a huge problem, but Max Scherzer has been hot all year as evidenced by his 13-0 record.
What's Not: Robbie Ross has a 9.00 ERA over the last week, and set-up man Tanner Scheppers' is worse in that span. Ouch. Luckily, some of the aforementioned new faces are picking up the slack and giving the overworked Ross and Scheppers a much-needed break, which will also come with next week's all-star break. At the plate, Jurickson Profar is really scuffling and seems to be a bit overwhelmed as a super-utility man, which is not at all surprising for a 20-year-old kid; he's hitting just .059 in his last 17 at-bats.
That Tigers' bullpen, ouch. Al Alburquerque and Phil Coke have been awful and have both had shots at the Tigers' closer role, which has been a revolving door all season and now features former Ranger Joaquin Benoit. Tigers leadoff hitter and Denton native Austin Jackson is hitting just .194 over the past week, while Prince Fielder is hitting a cool .231 in that same stretch.
Familiar Faces: Benoit was a starter-turned reliever for the Rangers but was never able to find his place, or his game, but since leaving Texas he's been one of the game's best late-game relievers and is currently being auditioned for the Tigers' closer role.