Picking best World Series matchups from remaining interleague games
Earlier this year, the Royals and Mets became the first World Series opponents to face each other on Opening Day of the following season, splitting a pair of games in Kansas City back in April. They will play the other half of that series with two games in Queens on Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon. Kansas City and New York are the 12th pair of World Series opponents to rematch immediately in interleague play in the following season—the last being the Cardinals and Red Sox in 2014—and their matchup this week got us thinking about the inverse of that. Which of this year’s other interleague pairings might rematch in the Fall Classic?
Looking over the schedules, there are numerous series that pit potential 2016 World Series foes against one another—some of them already played, such as the Rangers’ sweep of the Cardinals this past weekend, but most still to come. To narrow things down, I’ve selected five series, all with games yet to be played and none with a team from another of the five series, that I think would be the most compelling.
Rangers at Cubs, July 15–17
These are the teams with the two best records in baseball, making this also the most likely of all the interleague matchups to be a World Series preview. Any World Series involving the Cubs would automatically be the most compelling since they have not won a pennant since 1945 or a championship since 1908, by far the longest droughts in baseball on both counts. Beyond that, Chicago is currently on pace for a 112-win season and is in the conversation to be one of the best teams of all time. The Rangers, meanwhile, have never won a World Series; only the Cubs and Indians have endured longer championship droughts.
Nationals vs. Indians, July 26–27 and Aug. 9–10
Speaking of the Indians: If they are going to follow the Cavaliers' lead and bring a championship to northeast Ohio, of their interleague opponents, the one they are most likely to face in the World Series is the Nationals. The story here would again be championship droughts: Cleveland last won the World Series in 1948, and Washington has never been in a World Series. That’s 47 years without a pennant for the franchise, counting its time in Montreal; only the Cubs have gone longer without a World Series appearance. Both of these teams are currently in first place in their divisions, with the Nationals holding a comfortable 5 1/2-game lead over the Marlins and the sinking Mets.
Giants at Red Sox, July 19–20
These two teams have already played twice this year, splitting a pair of games in San Francisco on June 7 and 8. They meet at Fenway Park the week after the All-Star Game and offer a matchup of the best teams of the last two decades. With three championships each, the Red Sox and Giants have combined to win more than half of the World Series played over an 11-year span from 2004 to '14. In both cases, the franchises went from long-suffering to dynastic: The Red Sox broke an 86-year championship drought in 2004, and the Giants won in '10 to capture their first title since moving to San Francisco in 1958. The Giants also have their even-year streak to defend.
There’s also some compelling ancient history involving these two franchises and the World Series. Boston won the first ever World Series in 1903 and the American League pennant in '04, but John McGraw, manager of that year's NL champion Giants, refused to partake in the World Series with the upstart Junior Circuit that year. The two teams finally met in the Fall Classic in 1912 and battled for eight games, including one tie, in what was one of the most exciting and controversial World Series of all time.
Orioles at Dodgers, July 4–6
Here we have two teams that have not appeared in a World Series since each last won one—1988 for the Dodgers, '83 for the Orioles. They also have a bit of history as a pairing: They met in the 1966 World Series, which the Orioles swept, holding the Dodgers to just two runs in Game 1 and shutting them out in the final three. That series also featured Sandy Koufax’s final major league game, a loss to Jim Palmer in Game 2. This year, the Orioles have spent 62 days in first place and remain a game up on the Red Sox. The Dodgers, meanwhile, have been largely languishing in second place in the division but lead the NL wild-card race by a game over the Mets and Marlins.
Royals vs. Cardinals, June 27–30
A team from Missouri has participated in four of the last five World Series, with each of these two franchises winning two pennants and one championship over that span. Why not let them face off to break that tie in a rematch of the 1985 Fall Classic? Kansas City and St. Louis still have a 31-year-old score to settle, as the Cardinals were three outs away from the championship in Game 6 in 1985 only to melt down after a blown call at first base, handing the Royals the next two games and their first title. This home-and-away–four-game set has become an annual feature of their season, but the matchup would mean so much more in October.
Honorable mention: Cubs at Astros, Sept. 9–11
Cubs over Astros was my preseason World Series pick, and the Astros, who are 28–19 since the start of May, have played 54 seasons in the same city without winning a World Series.