Pro baseball’s AL taking impressive lead over NL this season

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Two thirds of Interleague play is complete with 168 of the scheduled 252 games now in the books.

After holding just a slight 46- 38 edges through the first third of play between the leagues, the AL enjoyed huge success over the two series played over the past week.

By winning 50 of the 84 games, the junior circuit now has a 96-72 lead, winning just over 57 percent of the games played to date. AL teams are just 44-40 at home but are a staggering 52-32 on the road!

Slightly more than 8½ total runs have been scored in those 168 games.

The New York Yankees are the hottest team in baseball, winners of nine in a row and now the holders of the best record in the AL at 40-25. The Yanks have the best record in Interleague play (10-2), a game better than the 9-3 records fashioned by Baltimore and Texas.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have the best overall record in baseball (42-25), but are just 7-5 in games against AL teams. Cincinnati and San Diego have the best records against AL teams, 6-3, as all three have played one intra-league series during the period of Interleague play.

Colorado has been a pathetic 1-11 in Interleague play. That lone win came last Friday against Detroit in bizarre fashion. Tied 4-4 after nine innings, the Rockies scored eight runs in the top of the tenth inning to win 12-4.

How dominant has the AL been this season? Consider that Cleveland is the only AL team with a losing record in Interleague play (4-8). Eight teams have gone just 6-6 while five have posted Interleague records of 8-4 or better.

Less than 100 games remain to be played. That’s still quite a bit of baseball but with each passing week we learn more about the contenders and pretenders.

The next traditional milestone at which teams take stock of their position and potential occurs in a couple of weeks on July 4. At that time less than a month remains until the trading deadline when teams begin the routine of rent-a-player for the stretch run.

As is the case most seasons, some big name players will be traded and not always from non-contending teams to contenders. There has been some talk that players such as Boston’s Kevin Youkilis and Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels could be had for the right offer.

Although both Boston and the Phillies are currently sitting in last place in the AL East and NL East respectively, the Red Sox are at .500 (33-33). But at 31-37 the Phillies are struggling and their run of 5 straight seasons of making the Playoffs is in question.

Here’s a look at four of the more interesting series that will end Interleague play for this season over the coming weekend. Three of these series are repeats of series played earlier this season.

Nationals at Orioles: Baltimore won two of three games when the teams met in Washington in mid-May. Both of the Orioles’ wins were by a run before the Nats took the finale 9-3. Both teams continue to play much better than most observers expected. Despite being swept by the Yankees, Washington starts the week leading the NL East by 4. 

After winning 2 of 3 in Atlanta, the Orioles are in second place in the AL East, just 1½ games behind the Yankees. Washington has one of the best young starting rotations in all of MLB with all four starters who’ve made double digit starts posting ERA’s between 2.45 and 3.02 with WHIPs between 1.02 and 1.10. From that quartet only Edwin Jackson has been a hard luck starter with the Nats winning just 4 of his 13 starts.

Of the 39 starts made by Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and Jordan Zimmerman the Nats have won 28. Baltimore’s best starter has been Jason Hammel whose 2.86 ERA and 1.16 are the staff’s best by far although lefty W Y Chen has been almost as solid in his rookie season. The O’s are 19-7 in the combined 26 starts by Hammel and Chen. 

Potential plays:

• Washington +125 or higher against Chen or Hammel.

• Washington as underdogs of any price against other Baltimore starters.

• Washington -140 or less in starts by Gonzalez, Jackson, Strasburg or Zimmerman not facing Chen or Hammel.

• UNDER 9 or higher in any matchup.

• UNDER 8 or higher if Chen or Hammel faces Gonzalez, Jackson, Strasburg or Zimmerman.

Rays at Phillies: The only scheduled meeting this season. The Phillies have endured injuries to both their pitching rotation and offense which explains the last place status in the NL East, nine games out of first. Tampa Bay has been without star hitter Evan Longoria for more than a month but remains competitive in the AL East with 37-29 record. 

Both teams have gotten solid starting pitching with David Price and Jeremy Hellickson tossing best for the Rays and a pair of stud lefites, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels, anchoring Philly. The Phillies have won just three of Lee’s 11 starts with Lee not getting credit for any of those wins. 

As might be expected, the offenses of both teams have been just average at best. The Rays have a winning road record, 16-14, while the Phillies are a miserable 12-19 at home. 

Potential plays:

• Tampa Bay +135 or more against Lee or Hamels.

• Tampa Bay as underdogs of any price in starts by Hellickson, Price or James Shields not facing Hamels, Lee or Vance Worley.

• Philadelphia -125 or less in starts by Hamels, Lee or Worley not facing Hellickson, Shields or Price.

• OVER 8½ or lower in starts by the Phillies Joe Blanton or Kyle Kendrick against Tampa’s Matt Moore or Alex Cobb.

• UNDER 8 or higher if Hamels, Lee or Worley oppose Hellickson, Price or Shields.

Yankees at Mets: The Bronx Bombers swept their three game home series versus the Mets a couple of weekends ago, outscoring their crosstown rivals 18-7. The Mets have gotten solid pitching from starters Johan Santana and knuckleballer R.A. Dickey while both Jonathan Niese and Dillon Gee continue to develop. CC Sabathia continues to be a workhorse for the Yanks and has put up pretty good stats while averaging more than seven innings per start. 

Andy Pettitte has been very impressive coming out of retirement with a 2.78 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in his seven starts, five of which have resulted in Yankee wins. Ivan Nova continues to post rather moderate stats but gets plenty of support from his hitters. Despite a 4.33 ERA and 1.38 WHIP Nova’s starts have resulted in 11 wins in his 13 starts.

The Mets’ Citi Field has been totals-neutral with 16 OVER, 16 UNDER and two pushes.

Potential plays:

• Mets as underdogs of any price in starts by Santana or Dickey against any Yankees starter other than Pettitte.

• Yankees as underdogs of any price.

• Yankees -125 or less not facing Dickey.

• Yankees -130 or more with Pettitte against any Mets starter.

• UNDER 8 or higher in any matchup

Dodgers at Angels: The Angels took two of three games when the teams met at Dodger Stadium last week, sandwiching a pair of one run wins around the Dodgers’ lone 5-2 win. Both teams have gotten solid starting pitching and timely hitting. Angels’ ace Jered Weaver may be reinstated from the DL in time to pitch in this series. In his absence Garrett Richards has filled in admirably. 

Lefty C J Wilson has also been consistently solid all season whereas the other starters have had their ups and downs. Dodgers’ ace Clayton Kershaw has been solid but not dominating as he was last season. Chris Capuano has been surprisingly strong while young Nathan Eovaldi, filling in for the injured Ted Lilly, has been extremely solid.

 The 56 starts made by five other Angels starters besides Weaver have produced 16 OVER, 39 UNDER and one push.

Potential plays:

• UNDER 7 or more in all.

• Angels +125 agaist Kershaw.

• Angels as underdogs of any price against any other Dodger starter.

• Angels -120 or less in starts by Wilson or Richards against any Dodgers starting pitcher other than Kershaw.

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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