After one third of the pro baseball season, AL leads NL in wins

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One third of the 252 scheduled regular season Interleague games have been played and the American League holds a slight 46-38 edge in games won against National League teams.

But what is interesting about that mark is the AL teams have a losing record at home (17-19), but a winning record (29-19) on the road.

Totals have broken exactly even with 41 OVER, 41 UNDER and two pushes as teams have combined to average 8.9 runs per game in Interleague play.

All 14 AL teams have played six interleague games thus far as have a dozen of the NL’s 16 teams. The exceptions are the teams that met in intra-league series, each of which has played just three interleague games.

No team has emerged unscathed. Only Arizona has been able to go 5-1 in these games. Colorado has yet to win a game against the AL teams, going 0-6 through Sunday. The Chicago Cubs, Kansas City, New York Mets and Oakland have each gone 1-5 in their first two interleague series. 

After losing six of seven games to slow their momentum the Los Angeles Dodgers start this week having gone 6-1 to own baseball’s best record at 39-22. They lead the San Francisco Giants by five games in the NL West as both teams have won seven of their last 10 games.

Only one other team, the Washington Nationals, is winning at least 60 percent of its games. At 35-23 the Nats sit atop the NL East, two games ahead of Atlanta. After losing eight of their last 10 games, defending NL East champ Philadelphia is the only team in the division with a losing record.

But perhaps the nicest bit of news surrounds the NL Central where there is a tie for the lead. Seeking to end 19 consecutive seasons with a losing record the Pittsburgh Pirates are tied with Cincinnati for first place with a 32-27 record. Of course the Pirates flirted with a winning record last season well into the summer before fading.

Tampa Bay has the best record in the AL at 35-25, but the Rays’ lead in the AL East is just a half game over New York Yankees and a single game over Baltimore. The Orioles have baseball’s second longest streak of losing seasons at 14. Boston is the only team in the division with a losing record at 29-31.

Texas leads the AL West despite losing six of its last 10 games, but that lead is just three over the Los Angeles Angels. The Rangers concluded a 10-game road trip on Sunday in which they scored two runs or less six times.

The Chicago White Sox lead Cleveland by a half game in the AL Central as heavily favored Detroit continues to struggle. The Tigers are 28-32 more than a third into the season but may have started to turn things around over this past weekend.

On Saturday ace Justin Verlander snapped his three game losing streak with a workmanlike 3-2 win at Cincinnati. On Sunday’s nationally televised evening game, the Tigers trailed 6-2 before scoring once in the seventh and four times in the eighth inning for a 7-6 win over the Reds. 

If they are able to take advantage of a three game midweek series at the Cubs we could see Detroit riding a five game winning streak into their weekend series hosting Colorado.

Here’s a look at four interleague series to be played this weekend.

Red Sox at Cubs: Two of baseball’s most storied franchises meet in the ‘friendly confines” amid disappointing circumstances. Both teams are struggling one third into the season. Although the Red Sox had played better in recent weeks, they start this week again in a slump, losing 7 of 10 and are in last place in the highly competitive AL East, two games below .500. 

The Sox have been beset by key injuries to the offense but poor pitching also explains much of their troubles. No starter has an ERA below 4.00 with Josh Beckett’s 4.03 ERA leading the rotation, nearly a half run better than next best Felix Doubront. 

The Cubs have gotten better starting pitching although Ryan Dempster may already have won the Hard Luck award for 2012. His 2.31 ERA and 1.03 WHIP through 11 starts are among the best in all of baseball. But the Cubs are just 4-7 in his starts and his personal record of 2-3 hardly reflects his effectiveness. 

Potential plays:

• Boston +120 against Dempster or any price against other Cubs starters.

• Cubs as underdogs of any price in a start by Dempster.

• Cubs +120 or more in a start by Jeff Samardzija.

• UNDER 8 or higher if Dempster opposes Beckett.

• OVER 9 or lower in any matchup including all those involving Dempster or Beckett except against each other.

Yankees at Nats: Old meets new in what is now a very attractive matchup given the dramatic improvement of the hosts which has been largely tied to the efforts of starting pitcher Stephen Strasburg and highly touted Bryce Harper. Both have been instrumental in Washington’s resurgence as have two other starting pitchers, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmermann. Even “journeyman” Edwin Jackson has pitched extremely well. 

The Yankees are, well, the Yankees. After a sluggish start to the season the Bronx Bombers are playing their best ball of the season and start the week a season high 9 games over .500 after winning 8 of 10. 

The offense has started to show more consistency and the pitching has been “good enough” though not outstanding. CC Sabathia has been decent but not overpowering as has been Hiroki Kuroda. Phil Hughes has pitched much better over the past month after nearly losing his spot in the rotation in April. 

Tthe most pleasant surprise has been Andy Pettitte. After “retiring” for 2011 the lefty has enjoyed surprising success in his return. Though occasionally victimized by the gopher ball, in 6 starts Pettitte has a solid 2.81 ERA and 1.09 WHIP while averaging a surprising 6.9 innings per start.

Potential plays:

• Washington as underdogs in any matchup.

• Washington -125 or less in starts by Strasburg or Zimmermann.

• Yankees +125 or more against Strasburg or Zimmerman.

• Yankees as underdogs of any price against other Nationals starters.

• UNDER 8 or higher in any matchup not involving the Yankees’ Sabathia or Ivan Nova or Washington‘s Chien-Ming Wang (the ex-Yankee).

• OVER 8 or lower in starts by Sabathia, Nova or Wang.

Orioles at Braves: The O’s have been led largely by an offense that has been steady and pitching that has not been awful (as it’s been in recent seasons). Though the staff still has some holes, a pair of newcomers have performed well. Rookie lefty W Y Chen and former Rockie Jason Hammel have performed well. But much of their success has been the result of close Jim Johnson, who has been nearly perfect in saving 18 of 19 games, in addition to picking up a win. 

Atlanta has gotten inconsistent starting pitching from much of the rotation with young Brandon Beachy and veteran Tim Hudson performing best. Beachy has pitched at an All Star level with his 1.98 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in a dozen starts. Craig Kimbel has been just as good as Johnson in closing games, with the same 18 saves in 19 chances that have featured 37 strikeouts in just 23 innings. 

Potential plays:

• Baltimore +150 underdog or more against Beachy.

• Baltimore +130 or more against Hudson.

• Baltimore as underdogs of any price in starts by Hammel or Chen not facing Beachy or Hudson.

• Braves -140 or less in starts not by Beachy or Hudson and not facing Chen or Hammel.

• OVER 8 or lower in starts not involving Beachy, Hudson, Chen or Hammel.

• UNDER 7 or higher in starts matching two of those four starters against one another.

White Sox at L.A. Dodgers: The Sox have gotten better than expected hitting in addition to a pair of starters fashioning All Star seasons. Young lefty Chris Sale and veteran Jake Peavy each have WHIPs below 1.00 in more than 60 innings pitched. The Sox are 17-6 in their combined 23 starts. 

The Dodgers continue to rely on pitching with defending Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw enjoying another fine season. But the entire rotation has been strong with all starters having ERAs below 4.00 and WHIPs of 1.36 or lower. The offense has produced timely hits, even with star Matt Kemp out until the All Star break.

Potential plays:

• White Sox as underdogs of any price in starts by Peavy or Sale.

• Dodgers -150 or less in a start by Kershaw not facing Peavy or Sale.

• Dodgers -125 or less in starts not involving Kershaw, Peavy or Sale.

• UNDER 7½ or higher if Peavy or Sale oppose Kershaw, Chris Capuano or young Nathan Eovaldi.

• OVER 8 or lower in games not involving Peavy, Sale, Kershaw, Capuano or Eovaldi.

 

About the Author

Andy Iskoe

Owner and author of “The Logical Approach,” Andy Iskoe has been a long time GT columnist, contributing weekly in-season columns on baseball, pro basketball and pro football.

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