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: It's the first time the Rangers play host to the Yankees since ending the American League Championship Series last October. This weekend finds both teams in a very different place, however. Both teams are coming off series losses to seemingly inferior clubs and are finding difficulty at just about every turn.
Pitching Matchups: Friday - Ivan Nova (2-2, 5.14 ERA) vs. Matt Harrison (3-3, 4.59); Saturday - Bartolo Colon (2-1, 3.00) vs. Derek Holland (3-1, 4.66); Sunday - CC Sabathia (2-2, 2.68) vs. Alexi Ogando (3-0, 2.17)
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What's Hot: Very, very little on either side. There are a lot of similarities between these two clubs right now and none of them really rank as positives. The best thing about this series is that one of the teams has to win it and quiet some of the concerns that have cropped up about their fitness for battle in recent days.
The Rangers didn't see Colon during their recent visit to New York so this will be their first look at the frontruneer for this year's Ponce De Leon award. Colon looks like the pitcher that won the Cy Young Award in 2005 and his visit to the fountain of youth has done much to stabilize a Yankee rotation that was filled with question marks entering the season.
Elvis Andrus is coming off his best week of the season. He hit .400 last week, stole four bases and provided some hope that there's a jolt coming to the Rangers offense. Unfortunately it seems to have come at the expense of his fielding. Walking and chewing gum is harder than you think, boys and girls.
What's Not: Unless you live under a rock, you've probably heard a truly staggering amount of discussion about whether or not Derek Jeter has lost his ability to play baseball. The arguments for that include his .250 batting average, his inability to hit the ball with power and/or out of the infield. The argument against is his track record. It may seem to be too early to judge, but just know that the New York Times found room on the front page of the news section for Jeter discussion this week alongside the continuing examination of Osama Bin Laden's death.
Friday night's start is a pretty big one for Harrison. With Tommy Hunter back soon, the Rangers have some serious decisions to make about who gets to start games. Moving Ogando back to the bullpen has its merits, but they can't keep running Harrison out there if he can't get people out consistently.
We were really hopeful that this was the year Nelson Cruz's talent overwhelmed us for an entire season. We're left quite disappointed by the combination of his underwhelming production and quad injury. He might be back Saturday, but there are probably wiser bets to be found in the Kentucky Derby.
Familiar Faces: Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira remain members of the Yankees. They share their teammates' recent taste for accomplishing nothing of merit during their at-bats. That probably won't amount to a much warmer reception for them from the fans at the Ballpark.