On Deck: Rays

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 2014 season. 

The Opponent: The Rays have lost two straight to Toronto after winning their Opening Day game behind David Price. They're expected to be a major contender in the AL East this season, despite it being the deepest, most competitive division in baseball.

Past Meetings: The teams split eight meetings a year ago, with the Rays getting the biggest win — a 5-2 victory on Sept. 30 in a AL Wild Card tiebreaker to give the Rays the second wild card berth in the American League. David Price pitched a complete game, beating Martin Perez in the loser-goes-home game.

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Pitching Matchups: Friday — Joe Saunders vs. Jake Odorizzi; Saturday — Nick Martinez vs. David Price (1-0, 2.45 ERA); Sunday — Yu Darvish vs. Alex Cobb (0-1, 7.20)

What's Hot: After an awful spring, and a pretty dreadful second half of 2013, Leonys Martin has excelled over the first three games, hitting .455 with a team-high four RBIs — all in clutch situations. Alex Rios is hitting .417 with the team's only home run so far, and Adrian Beltre is also hitting .417 with the walkoff winner on Tuesday.

Some familiar names have carried the Rays' offense so far this season, as Desmond Jennings, Evan Longoria and last year's rookie phenom Wil Myers have been the club's three leading hitters. David Price has done exactly what he's expected to, so far, making the Opening Day start, striking out six in 7 1/3 innings.

What's Not: Prince Fielder has gotten off to a slow start. He's managed just two hits in his first three games as a Ranger, but he's seen a lot of pitches and has provided a legitimate threat in front of Beltre. He'll come around sooner rather than later. Pedro Figueroa's days on the Rangers' big-league roster seem numbered as reinforcements are coming, which will surely push at least one current starter back to the bullpen.

Cobb will get his second start against Darvish after allowing four earned runs in five innings in his first outing this year — a loss to Toronto. Ben Zobrist and James Loney have combined to go 2-for-19 so far.

Familiar Faces: Grant Balfour has been quite the enemy of the Rangers in recent years as the former A's closer. The A's let him go, and now he's back to where he got his start with the Rays.

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