National League Baseball can mend until Series

Jul 1, 2008 6:59 PM

The 3-2 Pitch by Andy Iskoe | At the end of 251 interleague games, the American League wound up a commanding 149-102 against National League teams (59.4 percent).

AL teams were 79-47 at home (62.7 percent) at home and a solid 70-55 (56 percent) on the road. It’s the fifth straight year that the AL finished on top in interleague play.

The AL outscored the NL by nearly one full run per game and had the only two pitchers to hit home runs in interleague play (Cleveland lefty C.C. Sabathia and Seattle’s Felix Hernandez). The under was 129-108-14.

Another way of determining the AL’s dominance this season is to look at the standings. All three division leaders are at least 11 games above .500 with Eastern Division leading Tampa Bay (yes, the Tampa Bay Rays) having the best record in all of baseball and the only one winning at least 60 percent of their games.

The five teams in the AL East are a combined 38 games over .500 with only Toronto having a losing record (40-43). The four teams in the AL West are a combined five above .500 with the five in the AL Central a combined four above break-even.

In the NL, the six teams in the Central are a combined 18 games over .500 – the only division with a winning record. The five in the East are a combined 13 below .500, but the worst division in all of baseball by far is the NL West – a combined 52 games below .500.

Ouch!

Here’s a look at four of the more attractive series to be played this weekend:

Mets at Phillies: This four-game series concludes Monday. The Mets are 4-2 against Philly this season although the teams have not met since mid-April. Four of the matchups went under the total. The recent slump of Chase Utley seems to have affected the entire offense.

The Mets also have been erratic at the plate although stars Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado have started to be more productive. Also, David Wright has broken out of a slump. Neither pitching staff has lived up to expectations although both closers have generally been solid.

Preferred plays:

Either team as an underdog in most cases.

• Mets +130 at least against Cole Hamels.

• Phils +125 at least against Johan Santana.

Over 8 or lower in any matchup not involving Adam Eaton. The under is 14-1- in Eaton’s outings.

Cubs at Cardinals: St. Louis took two of three at home in the teams’ only other meeting. The Cardinals have a chance to close the gap on the division leaders, who began the week just 2½ games in front. St. Louis has gotten timely hitting from a lineup that is not as strong as last season.

The Cubs have benefitted from better than expected starting pitching and outstanding closing work from former starter Kerry Wood. Ace Carlos Zambrano may be available over the weekend if he comes off the DL.

Preferred plays:

• Cubs -120 tops in starts by either Ted Lilly or Ryan Dempster.

• Cards as underdogs or -125 favorites tops against all other Cubs starters.

Over 9 or lower except in starts by Dempster or the Cards’ Todd Wellemeyer .

Under 8½ or higher when Wellemeyer pitches.

Red Sox at Yankees: This four-game holiday weekend series beings on Thursday. Boston is 3-2 against the Yanks although the teams have not met since mid-April. The Yankees have played their best baseball over the past two weeks after languishing around .500 for most of the first three months.

The Yankees have had to contend with injuries to key players for much of the season, while Boston has only recently had to deal with the injury bug. Slugger David Ortiz is out for the Red Sox while Hideki Matsui is sidelined for New York.

Preferred plays:

Underdog/under in matchups of Boston’s Josh Beckett, Daisuke Matsuzaka or Jon Lester against the Yankees’ Mike Mussina, Andy Pettitte or Joba Chamberlain.

• Either team -125 tops if one of those starters faces a pitcher not previously mentioned.

Over 9 or lower if none of the six listed starters are involved

Athletics at White Sox: This is also a four-game series that begins on Thursday. The teams split a pair of low scoring games in their only prior meeting at Chicago in mid-April. Both teams have gotten better than expected starting pitching while the White Sox have had the more potent offense.

Oakland’s top starters have been Rich Harden and Justin Duchscherer, while lefty John Danks and righty Gavin Floyd have been the most consistent starters for the Pale Hose.

Preferred plays:

• Athletics if underdogs or -120 favorites tops in starts by Harden and Duchscherer.

• White Sox -135 tops against other Oakland starters.

Under 9 or higher in any matchup.

Under 8 or higher if Harden or Duchscherer oppose Danks or Floyd.