On Deck: Pittsburgh Pirates

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 2016 season. 

The Opponent: The Pirates are off to a great start thinks to some star power in the lineup as well as a lockdown bullpen. They're currently 4 1/2 games back of the MLB-best Cubs in the hotly contested NL Central.

Past Meetings: Back in 2013, the Pirates came to town and swept a three-game series against the Rangers with Jeff Banister serving as the Bucs' bench coach.

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Pitching Matchups: Friday — Jonathon Niese (4-2, 4.75 ERA) vs. Cole Hamels (5-0, 2.83); Saturday — Juan Nicasio (4-3, 4.46) vs. Yu Darvish (season debut); Sunday — Francisco Liriano (4-3, 4.30) vs. Martin Perez (2-4, 3.13).

What's Hot: The Bobby Wilson Experience is very real. In his last four starts, he's hitting .467 with a double and three RBIs and is hitting .348 in his 46 at-bats since being reunited with the Rangers. Ian Desmond continues his extended hot streak, as he's batting .407 in his last six games. Cole Hamels and Martin Perez combined to pitch 14 innings in their last starts combined and allowed just one earned run.

Gregor Polanco is hitting .360 in his last six games with a homer and a team-high seven RBIs in that span. Mark Melancon has appeared in five of the last six games for the Pirates and is 3-for-3 on save chances. Neftali Feliz has allowed just one hit in his last three innings of work over three games. He has three strikeouts and no walks in that time.

What's Not: Mitch Moreland is hitting .056 with one hit in his last 18 at-bats over six games. In that time, he has seven strikeouts. Prince Fielder is 4-for-22 in his last six games, and that's actually a decent stretch for him this year.

Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli is hitting just .143 in his last four games.

Familiar Faces: Rangers manager Jeff Banister spent 29 years in the Pirates' organization as a minor-league player and coach and finally as the Pirates' bench coach for years before landing the Rangers' job prior to last season. He appeared in one big-league game as a player and had a hit in his at-bat. Pirates manager Clint Hurdle spent one glorious year in 2010 as the Rangers' hitting coach before landing the Pirates gig. Former Rangers closer and AL Rookie of the Year Neftali Feliz is now with the Pirates and is a solid part of the team's bullpen.

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