Johan Santana and Daisuke Matsuzaka in Fenway Park on Friday.
Dan Haren against his old teammates in Oakland on Saturday.
Cole Hamels and CC Sabathia in the new Yankee Stadium on Sunday.
Interleague play. Say what you want about it: Refreshing change of pace, schedule edge-maker that unfairly affects playoff races, 10 percent attendance booster (although in reality, the biggest chunk of that increase comes from the isolated key rival series games).
But what interleague play really has been — at least over the past five seasons — is exhibit A of the American League’s talent edge and dominance over the National League.
Yes, the NL hasn’t won an All-Star Game since interleague play began in 1997. But that’s a once-a-year thing, subject to odd random samples.
But with interleague play, you’re talking about 20 days of regular-season games (this weekend, then the June 12-29 period, good for 252 games in all) when one league has been whipping up on the other.
Here are the W/L numbers:
2008: AL 149-NL 103 (.591)
2007: AL 137-NL 115 (.544)
2006: AL 154-NL 98 (.611)
2005: AL 136-NL 116 (.540)
2004: AL 127-NL 125 (.504)
Another look at the 2008 dominance:
Last season, the AL’s edge mostly was built in the AL Central-vs.-NL West matchups. The Twins led all AL teams with a 14-4 interleague record, including 8-1 in series against Colorado, Arizona and San Diego.
But the Twins (80-46 since 2002) always have been an interleague monster, with six winning records in the last seven years. Included is a dominating 16-2 record in 2006 that featured consecutive three-game sweeps of the Astros, Dodgers and Brewers in the Metrodome.
Your key there very well could be the built-in advantage the Twins have in the dome and its off-white roof — just check their World Series history, if you don’t think so.
It’s one thing to go to the Metrodome once or twice a season — as the other 13 AL teams do. But trying to adjust to those different conditions for a three-game visit once every three-or-so years is another.
But even the Royals and Tigers — both of whom finished well below .500 in 2008 — built impressive 13-5 interleague marks. The Royals were 7-2 against the NL West, the Tigers were 11-4 in series against all five NL West teams, including home sweeps of the Dodgers and Rockies.
No wonder the NL West barely had an above-.500 finisher in 2008 — and other than the Dodgers, that’s going to be a stretch this season, as well.
Overall, the AL Central went 58-32 (.644), dragged down only by the Indians’ 6-12 mark, while AL East teams were 52-38 (.578), playing primarily against the NL Central.
The Yankees have the best interleague record of any team — 123-87 in 12 seasons. But that’s what happens when you start interleague play in the midst of the game’s last dynasty.
But they didn’t build that .586 winning percentage by beating up on the crosstown Mets. In fact, the Mets hold a 19-17 edge over the Yankees.
The other, more-surprising AL interleague monster have been the Oakland A’s. They have winning records against all five NL West teams including 38-30 against the Giants, and 45-25 at home — which sets up well for this interleague period, as they again will be facing the NL West.
And that’s the place to look for possible scheduling edges this time around — who gets to beat up on the NL West non-contenders (in other words, everybody except the Dodgers)?
Your leading answer is the Los Angeles Angels. Besides six games against their crosstown rivals, they also will see the rest of the NL West teams for 12 games. And just about the time when their injury-ravaged roster should be at full strength.
The improved Seattle Mariners also get a nice draw — six games against the Padres, and three each against the other four NL West teams.
And the Texas Rangers get six with in-state rival Houston, then series with the Dodgers, Giants, Padres and Diamondbacks.
At the other end of the interleague spectrum are the Washington Nationals. The six games with the last-place Baltimore Orioles aren’t so bad, but series with the Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Rays probably will be.
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