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: The Rangers won't get to see the Angels' new toy this week since Zack Greinke won't be making a start in the four-game set, but his acquisition still looms large. It was a move designed to strike some fear into the hearts of the Rangers, a sign that the Angels aren't going to be backing down over the stretch run if they can help it. The fact that Oakland is actually ahead of them in the standings just makes this series even bigger for both teams.
Past 2012 Meetings: The Angels took two of three in Anaheim a little more than a week ago, giving them a 5-4 edge in the season series. That merely represents a little less thant the first half of the matchups between the two teams, though, and the team that plays better over the closing 10 is going to help itself a lot in the long run. Unless Oakland keeps playing the way they've been playing because no one's got any chance if that happens.
Pitching Matchups: Monday - Ervin Santana (4-10, 6.00 ERA) vs. Roy Oswalt (3-1, 5.22); Tuesday - Jered Weaver (13-1, 2.26) vs. Derek Holland (7-5, 4.74); Wednesday - Dan Haren (8-8, 4.59) vs. Yu Darvish (11-7, 4.05); Thursday - C.J. Wilson (9-7, 2.88) vs. Matt Harrison (12-6, 3.19)
What's Hot: Whatever tension you're feeling about the Rangers' chances of holding off the A's and Angels the rest of the way, it's pretty swell to look forward to a two-month long sprint for playoff spots. The Rangers open business on Monday with a 4.5-game lead on the A's with the Angels just another half-game behind. The two California teams lead the Wild Card race as well, adding another level of drama to all of the games left between these three teams.
Oswalt has faced Angels first baseman Albert Pujols more often than he has faced any other hitter over the course of his career. They've never faced each other in the American League, though, and Oswalt has never faced the Angels at all. It's nice in the interleague era that you can still stumble on cool, odd quirks like that.
Acquiring Greinke shores up a rotation that will be the league's best if Haren and Santana can give the Angels anything of value the rest of the way. They might even be the best if those two continue to pitch like the disappointments they have been all season.
What's Not: No hits for Josh Hamilton over the weekend, which means he's holding onto this spot at least one more time. There has actually been talk about the Rangers being better off dealing Hamilton now if they are sure they won't meet his price in free agency, something that should seem a lot crazier than it actually does.
If you're looking at this only through Rangers-colored glasses, Mike Trout struggling with a knee contusion is a good thing. If like baseball and not just Rangers wins, though, anything that limits the most exciting player to hit the league in ages is bad news.
Trout was out on Sunday, which might explain why the Angels got shut out for the second straight game by the Rays. With Grienke on the squad, offense looks like the one thing that can thwart the Angels down the stretch and that's true even when Trout is in the lineup.
Familiar Faces: Would there be anything more painful for the Rangers than to lose the division title to the Angels thanks in part to Wilson? The choice the Rangers made to invest their money elsewhere certainly hasn't been a flop -- first place is first place, after all -- but it is a lot harder to sell signing Holland and not Wilson based on their performances this season.