On Deck: Yankees

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 2013 season. 

The Opponent: The New York Yankees have cooled off a bit, but after entering the season with some seriously low expectations they stormed out to a lead in the jam-packed AL East. Now, they're in a stretch of having won just four of their last 10 games and are now in third place in the loaded division, but they're still a force to be reckoned with, especially at home.

Past 2013 Meetings: This is the first time the teams have met this season, but in 2012, the Rangers went 3-4 against the Bronx Bombers, including losing three of four games in Yankee Stadium.

Pitching Matchups: Tuesday — Yu Darvish (7-3, 2.84 ERA) vs. Hiroki Kuroda (7-5, 2.78); Wednesday — Justin Grimm (6-5, 5.57) vs. Andy Pettitte (5-5, 4.20); Thursday — Derek Holland (5-4, 3.43) vs. Phil Hughes (3-6, 5.09)

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What's Hot: What a difference a week can make. At this time last week, the Rangers were entering a four-game set against the division leaders with an awful offensive slump going on. Now, they're coming off six wins in seven games and their offense is back to cooking, with five regulars hitting over .300 in the past seven games, led by the now-healthy Ian Kinsler, who's 11 for his last 27 (oddly without an extra-base hit) and Nelson Cruz, who's thriving in the 3-hole, and is 11 for his last 29 with three homers and 11 RBIs over that same stretch. The winning pieces of the Rangers' bullpen: Robbie Ross, Neal Cotts, Tanner Scheppers and Joe Nathan? Wow. They just keep coming through, and Nathan recorded a save for the fourth straight day in Sunday night/Monday morning's win.

For the Yankees, no bats are real hot in this recent stretch, as they've won just four of their last 10 games, but they are getting a boost from a rookie centerfielder by the name of Zoilo Almonte, a Dominican youngster who's been their own version, of sorts, of Yasiel Puig, but not quite as awesome. Almonte is hitting .583 over his last five games — his only five big-league games — with two doubles, a homer and four RBIs. Kuroda, who the Rangers will face in Tuesday's season-opener, is coming off a two-run outing in 6 2/3 innings.

What's Not: Elvis Andrus is still looking to get on track this season. He's hit .136 over the last week and is down to .237 on the season, but since Kinsler's return and Andrus' return back to the 2-hole, he's starting to swing the bat with more purpose and just seems to be more comfortable. The same goes for Lance Berkman, who's in the midst of a near-two-month slump and is now dealing with some creaky legs and back at his advanced age.

Phil Hughes and Andy Pettitte combined to give up 19 hits and 10 earned runs in 12 2/3 innings their last times out, so the surging Rangers hitters could be in for some fun on Wednesday and Thursday. After a hot first month to the season, it seemed the Yankees had really found a diamond in the rough in former All-Star and Angels cast-off Vernon Wells. But since then, the Arlington native has been on a massive downturn, and is hitting just .083 over his last five games.

Familiar Faces: Lance Berkman had a short stint with the Pinstripes in 2010 after being dealt there from Houston after 11 1/2 seasons with the Houston Astros. Berkman played in 37 games that year with the Yankees, including going 3-for-12 with a triple against the Rangers as Texas beat the Yankees in six games to clinch their first AL pennant.

Going the other way, Travis Hafner, the once-great slugging designated hitter, was a Rangers draft pick before being dealt to Cleveland as a prospect.

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