On Deck: Rangers at Blue Jays

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 hit the road for three games in Toronto, where they will try to shake off their first series loss of the 2012 season. The Jays' 12-10 record doesn't reflect the fact that they've been better than the league average in both scoring and preventing runs this season, but it does reflect the fact that they've had a devil of a time against the Orioles. They're 1-5 against a Baltimore team that's broken from the gate surprisingly well.

2011 Rewind: The Jays are the poster child for how tough life can be if you find yourself in the wrong division. They finished 81-81, but went 21-33 against the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox. Replace those games with the Indians, Royals and Twins and there's not much chance that the Blue Jays would have been in serious playoff contention.

Pitching Matchups: Monday - Yu Darvish (3-0, 2.42) vs. Kyle Drabek (2-1, 2.25); Tuesday - Neftali Feliz (1-1, 3.00) vs. Drew Hutchinson (1-0, 6.10); Wednesday - Matt Harrison (3-1, 3.38) vs. Ricky Romero (3-0, 3.18)

What's Hot: Elvis Andrus' offense has finally gotten going over the last week. He hit .333 against the Yankees and Rays with three walks thrown in for good measure. That turned into four steals and four runs scored for a player who hasn't been doing enough to put them on the board to this point in the season.

Edwin Encarnacion has always been a player that the Jays have been looking to replace, but it's a good thing they didn't do it before this year got going. He's been their most consistent offensive player thus far and giving time for the rest of the bats to find their way to where they need to be if the Jays are going to become any kind of contender this season.

The series with the Rays didn't go well, but the Rangers did go 8-4 in their stretch against the Red Sox, Tigers, Yankees and Tampa. That's more than good enough work against the good teams to keep the Rangers in front of the AL West and probably the entire American League.

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What's Not: We have no reason to believe Josh Hamilton's back spasms are a big deal, but this is a case where the specific issue is less significant than the bigger narrative. Injuries, especially injuries to Hamilton, are the other shoe that could drop for this team and make the season something less than everyone wants it to be.

We mentioned up top that the Jays have been scoring and preventing runs at a decent clip. As the saying goes, though, timing is everything. The bullpen has not done a good job to this point in the season and that's a pretty sure way to wind up with a record that's less impressive than the numbers might dictate.

Jose Bautista is hitting .190 with three home runs. That either means the league has figured out a way to get him out or it means he's due to explode. The Rangers had better hope it is the former.

Familiar Faces: Darren Oliver got his passport stamped in the offseason when he decided to continue his career with the Jays. He's been doing his thing pretty well -- nine strikeouts and one walk in 9.2 innings -- which means that we may yet see a fourth tour of duty in Texas for the ageless lefty.

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