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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

June 23, 2009 at 11:30 AM

A closer look at interleague play

I keep hearing that the Mariners are getting a big break by playing the NL West in interleague, and have used those games to stay in contention.

A little bit — but not as much, so far, as the Angels, one of two teams they are trying to catch.

The Mariners are 7-5 in interleague games, with six still to come, starting tonight with their bitter natural rivals, the hated Padres. I’m here to tell you, after watching three games last weekend in San Diego, that the Padres are a miserable team now that Jake Peavy and Chris Young are on the disabled list. Other than the great Adrian Gonzalez, the lineup is even less imposing than the Mariners’, and the pitching is lackluster until you get to lights-out closer Heath Bell. Yet they did take one game from the Mariners in San Diego.

Seattle, in fact, stands 7-5 so far in interleague games. The Angels are 9-4 — and those 1 1/2 games are precisely the difference between the M’s and the Angels in the standings right now. And with their natural rival being the Dodgers — the team with the best record in baseball — the Angels have a tougher route through interleague.

To recap: The Mariners took two out of three from the Giants, got swept three by the Rockies, took two out of three from the Padres, and swept the Diamondbacks. Besides the three in Seattle with San Diego, the Mariners still must play three in Los Angeles against the Dodgers this weekend.


The Angels won two of three from the Dodgers (at Dodger Stadium), swept three from the Padres, swept three from the Giants, lost two of three to the Dodgers (in Anaheim), and last night lost the first game of a three-game series against torrid Colorado. They still have three with Arizona left to play, so they can make even more hay in interleague — as they traditionally do. In 2007, when the Mariners finished six games out of first, the Angels were 14-4 in interleague games, compared to 9-9 for Seattle.
Texas, by the way, is 6-6 in interleague, with the oddity that their natural rival, the Astros, are in a different division than those of the Mariners and Angels. But the Astros are not a very good team, either. The Rangers beat them four of six — but were swept three by the Giants, and lost two of three to the Dodgers. They still have six remaining against the NL West doormats, Arizona and San Diego.
The NL, by the way, has made something of a comeback this year. The American League holds “only” an 89-80 advantage, for a .527 winning percentage, so far in interleague games. That’s after winning at a .594 pace in 2008, ..544 in 2007, .611 in 2006, and .540 in 2005.
Here’s a year-by-year look at interleague results, listing the American League’s record and winning percentage:
2009: 89-80 (.527)*
2008: 149-102 (.594)
2007: 137-115 (.544)
2006: 154-98 (.611)
2005: 136-116 (.540)
2004: 126-125 (.502)
2003: 115-137 (.456)
2002: 123-129 (.488)
2001: 132-120 (.524)
2000: 136-115 (.542)
1999: 116-135 (.462)
1998: 114-110 (.509)
1997: 97-117 (.453)
Total: 1,497-1,416 (.514)
*More interleague games still to be played this season
Throw in the fact that the American League has won the last 11 All-Stars played to conclusion (not counting the 2002 tie), and 17 of the last 20, and there’s no question that the balance of power has shifted strongly to the AL. Yet the National League can claim two of the past three World Series, so they still do have some bragging rights, I suppose.

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