It's the home opener for the Texas Rangers, and guess who's in town? Everyone's favorite big spenders from the AL West, the Los Angels Angels.
Over the last couple years, the stakes have gotten higher and the feelings get a little more sour between these two—at least with the fans, anyway.
It all gets settled on the field. Here are seven things to watch in the Rangers' home opener.
Both teams set strikeout records during their three-game opening series', but in very different ways.
Ranger pitching punched out 43 batters against the Astros—most ever for a team during the first three games of a season. On the other side, Angel batters whiffed 36 times against the Reds—a franchise record.
While the competition wasn’t top class, Texas still expects its rotation to be among the American League’s best. As for the Angels, they probably view their opening series as a minor speed bump.
All eyes are on Mike Trout this season, and no team is aware of what he can do more than the Rangers.
Trout batted .338 with six home runs and 17 RBI against Texas last season. He also walked 16 times, stole seven bases and scored 21 runs.
In a loaded lineup, it seems like Trout is always the player who gives them a jolt. Needless to say, the Rangers need to do a better job slowing him down if they plan to keep the Angels off the board this season.
It’s a big year for Derek Holland, who is starting the home opener on April 5.
The 26-year-old had a poor season in 2012, with many pointing to his lack of focus as a major concern. However, he can put all those concerns to bed with a strong year in 2013.
It’s only his first start, but what better way to begin an important season than against a heated division rival featuring one of the most hyped lineups in the game?
The Angels have added some pop to their lineup, but it appears for the moment that the rotation has fallen by the wayside.
Zack Greinke and Dan Haren are both gone, so the burden is on the newcomers to pick up the slack.
In the series against Texas, Jason Vargas and Tommy Hanson are projected to take the hill for the Halos. The good news is they are both veterans who have tasted success in the big leagues. But how do they stack up against their peers in the AL West? It’s never too early to find out.
The Rangers’ bullpen still has much to prove.
They made a brief cameo in the Houston series and looked sharp—apart from Derek Lowe’s appearance—but a tight game against Albert Pujols and the Angels is a different story.
Apart from Joe Nathan and Robbie Ross, this group still needs to show they can get critical outs late in the game.
Pitching duels shouldn’t get much better than the matchup between Yu Darvish and Jered Weaver Sunday night.
Weaver has long established himself as one of the elite pitchers in baseball.
Darvish—one out from perfection his first start—has quickly become the Rangers’ ace, but rising to occasions such as these will help him join the select group of pitchers in the upper tier of the major leagues.
It’s the big question on everyone’s mind. How will Ranger fans react when Josh Hamilton returns to Arlington in an Angels’ uniform?
In all likelihood, most fans attending these games have already decided how they will receive their former outfielder, but there's still time to consider.
Whether it’s a standing ovation or a parade of boos, Hamilton’s first at-bat is must-watch television.