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 2014 season.
The Teams: The Royals are one of the best stories in baseball this season, making the postseason for the first time since 1985 and finally living up to their billing in recent years of being that team that should break through with its fantastic farm system, but has yet to do so. Now, that time has come.
The A's were one of the worst teams in all of baseball over the final month and a half of the season. They watched as the Angels lapped them in the AL West standings and needed to beat the Rangers in Game 162 to avoid a potential play-in game like the one the Rangers and Rays played last year. But they got in, and now they can start fresh. Will they get more than one game?
Past 2014 Meetings: The Royals won five of the teams' seven meetings this year, all of which came in August. Because of that, the Royals get to host the game in what should be a raucous Kauffman Stadium.
Pitching Matchups: Jon Lester (16-11, 2.46 ERA) vs. James Shields (14-8, 3.21)
What's Hot: Josh Reddick has been ballin' outta control for the A's, hitting .480 with two doubles, a triple, a homer and a team-high seven RBIs in his last six games. Former Rangers catcher Geovany Soto, who was acquired for cash in August, is having a nice week for the A's, batting .353 over five games and holding things down behind the plate with his veteran presence. In his last outing, Lester fanned seven and walked none over seven innings, but he did give up five runs, even though only three were earned.
After spending much of the season in a prolonged slump, designated hitter Billy Butler is tearing the cover off the baseball right now. He's batting .385 over the last week and has six RBIs in his last seven games. Light-hitting shortstop Alcides Escobar is batting .367 over his last seven games. While the A's might have a slight advantage at starter, the Royals get the nod in the bullpen by a wide margin. Closer Greg Holland converted all three of his save attempts over the past week.
What's Not: Adam Dunn, who will be making his first postseason appearance of his long, illustrious career, isn't entering the game on a hot streak. He's batting just .111 with a double and two RBIs in his last seven games.
Shields' last outing wasn't "not hot," necessarily, but it was pretty pedestrian. He went six innings and allowed three runs on five hits while giving up a long ball. But they don't call him "Big Game James" for nothing.
Familiar Faces: Josh Willingham was acquired by the Royals in a waiver deal from Minnesota, but he's also a former A's slugger. He's also battling injury right now.