March-AprilMajor League Baseball opens its season with the Rangers playing their new American League West rival, the Astros, at Minute Maid Park in Houston. While there will be no shortage of pomp and circumstance Sunday, the most anticipated series of the month is the Rangers’ home-opening series against the Angels. That means Josh Hamilton returns to Rangers Ballpark on April 5 to face his old team and the lousy fans he left behind only three games into the five-year, $125 million contract that lured him away. Anaheim visits for three, and Tampa Bay follows with the reigning Cy Young winner, David Price, before the Rangers hit the road to Seattle and Chicago at Wrigley Field. After a weekend home series with Seattle on April 19-21, the Rangers have a unfriendly travel week that begins with three games in Anaheim and, without the benefit of an off day, four at Minnesota.MayA pair of Sox, Chicago and Boston, visit Arlington for the only time this year to open the month before the Rangers take a North-South-West trip to Milwaukee, Houston and Oakland. The final leg is where their 2012 regular season came to a forgettable end with a three-game collapse that gave the A’s the AL West title. Three games at Oakland Coliseum, hands-down the worst stadium in the major leagues, precede a seven-game homestand May 16-22 with four against the defending AL champions, Detroit, and three against the A’s. The Rangers went only 8-11 against Oakland last year. The schedule gets a little weird to end May. There’s nothing strange about three games at Seattle over Memorial Day weekend, but Memorial Day features a day-night doubleheader at Arizona. That’s a one-day, two-game road series. After an off-day, the Rangers are home to host the Diamondbacks for two games. Arizona is considered the Rangers’ natural interleague rival now that Houston is in the AL.JuneThe featured series of the month is a three-game weekend series June 21-23 at Busch Stadium in St. Louis in a rematch of the 2011 World Series. The Cardinals won the final two games of the 2011 Fall Classic to wrest the world title away from the Rangers. After wrapping up a three-game series against Kansas City to open the month, the Rangers head east to Boston and Toronto for a tough six-game road trip. The Blue Jays, on the strength of the Miami fire sale, are considered by many to be the favorites in the AL East. The Rangers’ next homestand isn’t much easier, with Cleveland, Toronto and Oakland coming through town on the longest homestand (11 games) of the season. The bonus for the Rangers is that they went 50-31 at home in 2012. The Rangers leave St. Louis for Yankee Stadium for three games June 25-27 before closing out the month at home with three games against Cincinnati.JulyThe Reds series is part of a nine-game homestand that finishes up with six divisional games against Seattle and Houston to open the month. The Rangers went only 27-30 against the AL West last year, a primary reason they failed to three-peat. The Rangers head to Baltimore to play many of their former teammates July 8-11 and then skip to Detroit July 12-14 to wrap up the first-half of the season. The All-Star Game is July 16 at Citi Field in New York, and the Rangers figure to have a much smaller contingent with the coaching staff not a part of the game this year. There also figures to be fewer Rangers players on hand after sending a club-record eight to the 2012 game. The Rangers open the second half — and close out the month — with 10 of 13 games at home. The bad news is those games are against the Orioles (July 19-21), the Yankees (July 22-25) and the Angels (July 29-31).AugustOf the 26 games on the slate, 19 of them are against AL West foes. That includes the first 10 during a road trip that hits Oakland, Anaheim and Houston. The Astros series is a Friday-to-Monday set Aug. 9-12 before the Rangers return to Arlington for an eight-game homestand that opens with two against Milwaukee. The Brewers haven’t been to Arlington since 2007, when they dropped 2 of 3 games during Ron Washington’s first season as manager. He will be in his seventh season in 2013, and he could overtake Bobby Valentine as the club’s all-time winningest manager during this stretch that ends with six games against Seattle and Houston. Washington needs 61 wins this season to surpass Valentine’s 590 victories. The Rangers head on the road again for six games at Chicago and Seattle, but are home for the final weekend of the month for a series with Minnesota.SeptemberThe Rangers make their final trip early in the month, with three games at Oakland (Sept. 2-4) and Anaheim (Sept. 6-8). The Rangers’ final interleague series of the season is against Pittsburgh and former hitting coach Clint Hurdle to open a six-game homestand Sept. 9-11. The final three are the final series of the season against Oakland. The Rangers’ last road trip of the year is to Tampa Bay for four games, no small feat during what is expected to be a playoff stretch race for both clubs, and three against spring-training roommate Kansas City. The Rangers close the regular season at home for the first time since 2010 with three against Houston, which should be putting the finishing touches on a third straight 100-loss season, and four against Anaheim, which is favored by many to win the division.
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760 Twitter: @JeffWilson