06/30/08 10:00 AM ET
Winner and still champion: The AL
NL once again on the losing end of Interleague Play
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
It added up to another bad experience for the Senior Circuit. Sixteen more days of senior moments, bringing the American League plague to five years.Since 2004, the AL has gone 826-641 in regular-season games, 4-0 in All-Star Games, 13-4 in World Series games. (No one has kept track of NCAA brackets, but assume that the AL has been hogging those, too.) This season's damage added up to 149-102, so perhaps NL folks are now winking at each other. Because the last season in which the AL enjoyed comparable superiority -- in 2006, when it won 154 of 252 Interleague games -- ended with the St. Louis Cardinals winning a World Series, from the Tigers. But if this was another setup, the NL sure overdid it. The disparity this time is truly remarkable, and almost across the board: Only two AL clubs (Toronto and Cleveland) had losing Interleague records, and only three NL teams (the Mets, the Reds and the Braves) out of 16 finished on the plus side. People in the game have long ago stopped trying to come up with logical reasons for the continuing imbalance of power. Says San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy, "Some things are hard to explain. Streaks come and go, and right now they're in a good streak against us." Really? No one's had a better streak, mean or otherwise, since the Road Runner against Wile E. Coyote. About-face! Because Interleague Play was so uniformly one-sided, it minimally shook up the standings. For instance, the Phillies led the NL East by three games before and still lead Florida by one game after being waxed 4-11 by AL teams. Conversely, the Tampa Bay Rays could pick up only one game on Boston with their 12-6 Interleague record (although that was a big one, vaulting them back into the AL East lead). However, the impact on raising or lowering the level of teams' performances was dramatic. Consider ... ... Five biggest lifts: 1. Kansas City Royals (in-league 16 below .500 to Interleague eight over .500)
2. Seattle Mariners (minus-19 to even)
3. Detroit Tigers (minus-7 to plus-8)
Colorado Rockies (minus-17 to minus-1)
Cincinnati Reds (minus-10 to plus-3). ... Five biggest drops: Chicago Cubs (plus-19 to minus-3)
Philadelphia Phillies (plus-12 to minus-7)
St. Louis Cardinals (plus-12 to minus-1)
Florida Marlins (plus-8 to minus-5)
Los Angeles Angels (plus-14 to plus-2). Reversals of fortune The Atlanta Braves went 8-7 after four seasons of kowtowing to the AL; their 2004-07 Interleague record was 24-39. The Marlins took it on the gills for the first time since 2004, but remained the NL's overall best Interleague competitor (115-101) even after going 5-10. The Orioles owned the AL's worst Interleague record (79-114) before going 11-7 -- their first winning set since the same record in 1999. Grand Central The five teams in the AL Central combined to go 26 games above .500 (58-32), even with the Indians' league-worst 6-12 pratfall. Featured in that performance were the Twins, whose 10-game winning streak during the Interleague phase was their longest since they won 11 in a row June 22-July 3, 2006 ... the first 10 of which had also come against NL teams. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the worst Interleague division at 27 games below .500 (27-54) was the NL West, the only one without a single team with a winning record. Sweep charity All told, the season's Interleague Play consisted of 84 series. Of these, 23 ended in sweeps -- 17 by AL teams, six by NL clubs. Not surprisingly, Minnesota topped all the sweeps but the Nielsens; the Twins whisked away the D-backs and Nationals at home and the Padres in San Diego. Here, try it my way Or, maybe not. In this year's Interleague action in NL parks, AL pitchers combined to go 30-for-275 (a .109 average), while lucking into 11 RBIs and scoring 13 runs. Five staffs had a hitless experience, led by the 0-for-25 Red Sox. Yankees, Blue Jays, Tigers and Angels pitchers must also wait until 2009 for their next hits (the Bombers could still crack the hit column in a July 10 makeup game in Pittsburgh). Then again, considering hitting is supposed to be their specialty, NL players getting turns at DH in AL parks weren't so hot, either: They combined to hit .242 with 20 homers and 69 RBIs. Walk and chew gum at the same time? Maybe. But impersonate a position player and stay in one piece? Not so easy for an American League pitcher. Case in point No. 1: While scoring his hitless staff's only run, Chien-Ming Wang sprained a ligament in his right foot that might keep him off the mound until August and keep the Yankees out of the playoffs until 2009. Case in point No. 2: Minutes after striking his brotherhood's loudest blow with a grand slam, Seattle right-hander Felix (The Bat) Hernandez sprained his left ankle and had to limp out of his outing against the Mets. ... And Carlos Delgado nearly tore down The House That Ruth Built was quite hospitable to the Mets first baseman. Punctuated by his club-record nine RBIs Friday afternoon, Delgado bid his own farewell to Yankee Stadium, batting .462 with 11 RBIs in three games in the Bronx. Sometimes, that's just crabgrass on the other side of the hill Tim Hudson, Barry Zito and Johan Santana -- three pitchers who had a combined .663 winning percentage in the AL, with a collective 287-146 record -- are a combined 3-20 in Interleague Play against their old foils since jumping to the NL.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.