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 2011 season.
The Opponent: One last trip to Oakland where the Rangers will happily wade into battle once more with an AL West foe. There's little for the A's to play for at this point in the season and there's a fair chance everyone is more excited about the Moneyball premiere than the nine games remaining on the schedule. Hard to blame them, what with Jonah Hill being so dreamy and all. What, you like that Pitt guy?
Past 2011 Meetings: The Rangers lead the season series 11-5 and they've won 10 of the last 11 meetings. Michael Young has been a big reason for that success with 19 RBIs against the A's so far this year. Too bad Oakland won't be on the slate of playoff opponents.
Pitching Matchups: Tuesday - Derek Holland (14-5, 4.02) vs. Rich Harden (4-3, 4.76); Wednesday - C.J. Wilson (16-7, 2.97) vs. Brandon McCarthy (9-8, 3.35); Thursday - Colby Lewis (13-10, 4.45) vs. Trevor Cahill (11-14, 4.31)
What's Hot: The magic number is five, which means that a few more wins and a little help from the Blue Jays against the Angels will finally put this thing to rest. Even if it doesn't end before Thursday, frankly we can think of better places to celebrate anything than Oakland, it's pretty clear now that the Rangers will put this thing to bed pretty soon.
We've discussed him many times in these pages, but Mike Napoli keeps coming up because he keeps on hitting. He's hitting .379 over the last three months with 16 homers, numbers that have done much to help keep the Rangers afloat while various players have missed time with injuries. It's all enough to make Frank Francisco throw another chair.
The Rangers won't see Gio Gonzalez this week and they only had to face him twice this season, something that helps explain why the Rangers have been so successful against Oakland. Gonzalez has turned in a terrific season while the A's sank around him, making it a shame that they can't clone him. Moneyball sequel, anyone?
What's Not: With the playoff spot all but secured, the Rangers need to focus on rounding into shape over the final nine games. Getting something positive out of Lewis would be a nice place to start. It is hard to imagine he'll be bounced from the rotation a year after starring in October, but it is getting pretty tempting.
Continuing on that theme, these games are a nice, fairly unpressured chance to get Nelson Cruz back in the swing of things. He may be doomed to always be a player who makes you wonder how good he'd be if he stayed healthy, but they still need him for this playoff run.
If there were an award for the most disappointing player of the year -- the Milton Bradley Award, perhaps -- Cahill would be a top contender. There was some Cy Young buzz around him entering the season, but he's been an unmitigated flop for the A's. He's young enough to turn it around and Oakland could really use a 2012 revival.
Familiar Faces: It seems like the Rangers have faced Harden and McCarthy every time they played the A's this year. Both guys have battled serious injuries and made it back to the bigs and we're feeling magnanimous with the playoffs in the air, so we'll simply pat them on the back and say that it is always good to see guys salvage careers that were on the brink.