What we learned from round one of interleague play: AL still dominant
After being against interleague play for so many years, somehow I found myself getting caught up with all the great matchups this past weekend. Mainly I was excited to see how the two East divisions stacked up against each other, but there were some other interesting rivalries that helped us determine the value of each league and to identify some contenders and pretenders.
Overall, the American League continued its dominance over the National League going 24-18. But despite the AL continuing its winning ways, the NL proved it’s not as much as a pushover as some have predicted. And the big six from the AL (Yankees, Rays, Red Sox, Tigers, Angels and Rangers) proved not be so overpowering for some lowly NL teams.
American League is still dominant
Despite series losses by the Yankees, Rays and Angels, the AL still beat the senior circuit. Yes, we all know interleague play gives a great advantage to the AL, which is set up for a designated hitter lineup. Ultimately, the two leagues still play the same game, and the AL has proven it plays better.
For the past eight seasons, the AL has beaten the NL in interleague contests, including a 154-98 record in 2006. And the crazy thing is the DH has become less effective as a position, so I’m not sure what the NL’s excuse is for continuing its losing ways. Early in 2012, it seems the AL is still the superior league (and you have no idea how much it pains me to say that).
AL East is better than the NL East
As I mentioned before, I was extremely excited about the AL East versus NL East matchups to see exactly how the two best divisions in baseball stacked up. The AL East went 7-5, winning three of the four series. Almost all of these games were close and great to watch.
The Red Sox handled the Phillies 16-12. Despite losing the series, the Nationals outscored the Orioles 15-11 after a 9-3 route on Sunday. The Mets were also able to salvage a game on Sunday but were ultimately dominated by the Blue Jays 21-11.
Probably the most exciting matchup of the weekend, although it didn’t get much publicity, was the series between the Braves and Rays. I believe these may be the two best teams in baseball at this point, and the Braves were able to take down the powerful AL East foe two games to one, outscoring them by one run, 9-8. The pitching in this matchup was incredible and definitely proved both teams are prepared to make championship runs.
Big six in AL may not be so powerful
The Rangers have often been mentioned as the best team in the league, but after struggling in a series against the Astros, I think they’ve proved they’re not that far ahead of everybody else. They won the series 2-1, but scored four, five and six runs against a team you would expect them to dominate.
The Yankees may have been the biggest disappointment of the group, losing two of three to a second-place team in the NL Central. After Andy Pettitte won the first game 4-0, the Reds came back to win the next day 6-5, and then Johnny Cueto outdueled CC Sabathia to take the series.
Scratch that, the most embarrassing of the big six during interleague weekend was the Los Angeles Angels performance against the worst team in baseball. After the Angles took game one 7-2, the Padres outplayed L.A. in the next two games, winning 3-2 in both contest. Sunday, the Padres won in 13 innings after getting a pinch-hit from a pitcher who then scored on an error by Howie Kendrick.
The Rays lost to the Braves in Tampa, but that’s no disrespect to the Rays, who played a great series against a really good team. The Tigers struggled against the Pirates while winning their series 2-1. Surprisingly, the Red Sox were the best looking team of the big six over the weekend.
The fact none of these teams were able to sweep their respective series proves how competitive the two leagues are. It’s going to be a great battle no matter who ends up pitted against each other in the World Series.