But in the first interleague weekend of 2011, the NL got off to a comparatively strong start, tying the AL at 21 wins apiece, especially since eight of the 14 series were played in AL parks.
That covers 10 of the 14 interleague series, though finding a theme for the other four is a bit tenuous. The Astros-Blue Jays series is, the, uh, battle of two teams with retractable roofs? Thankfully, any game Toronto's Jose Bautista plays right now is worth watching, and that is a major draw of interleague: letting fans in a market with a team in one league see the stars of the other.
Such intrigue in the majority of interleague series won't always be the case, however. Check out
AL clubs are constructed with a premium placed on having a ninth quality batter, to make sure the DH slot is filled adequately for the 153 games per year AL teams play in AL parks. NL clubs are more likely to distribute its player personnel resources differently, spending money on an extra reliever or maybe several good pinch hitters rather than one stud designated hitter. NL teams need a deeper bench, but that helps less when needing one additional starting bat.
Collectively, the NL DH's over the weekend have a batting line of .194/.255/.337 with a home run every 49 at bats and a .592 OPS. Compare that to the control group of AL DHs, who this season are batting .263/.341/.407 with a home run every 36 at bats and a .748 OPS.
Conversely, AL pitchers this weekend went 4-for-43 for a .093/.093/.116 batting line for a .209 OPS, as opposed to NL pitchers who had a .135/.167/.170 for a .337 OPS. Admittedly, this is a very small sample size, but the gross difference of OPS between the different leagues' DHs is 156 points, which is 28 points greater than the pitchers' difference. Admittedly, NL pitchers are also more proficient with sacrifice bunts, but generally the ability for a pitcher of either league to reach base is so small that having a more productive DH -- especially one who can drive the ball in the middle of the lineup -- is generally more beneficial.
Plus, losing a star DH can be overcome. Take Boston for example. The Red Sox annually lose David Ortiz's bat -- yes, he struggled early the last two seasons but those slumps were over by the bulk of games against the NL -- yet they've been among baseball's best teams in interleague play. Since the start of 2005 the Sox are 34-20 record (.630) in interleague games played in NL parks, a winning percentage that is 73 points better than their success rate (.557) against AL teams during that time period.
There were scoring outbursts: three of the five teams that hadn't scored 10 or more runs in a game yet this year -- the Nationals, Pirates and Red Sox -- all did so on Friday night, in their first interleague game.
And there were virtuoso pitching performances, as the there were seven starts with a game score of at least 80 in the three-day weekend. (Game score is a Bill James-created stat that
The Giants' Tim Lincecum threw a shutout against the A's; the Phillies' Cliff Lee had 10 strikeouts in eight shutout innings against the Rangers; the Mariners' Erik Bedard had nine strikeouts in eight shutout innings against the Padres; the Angels' Ervin Santana threw seven strikeouts in a shutout of the Braves; the Rays James' Shields had 13 strikeouts in a shutout of the Marlins; and the Tigers' Rick Porcello allowed one hit and two walks in eight shutout innings.
Just since Friday these players were placed on the disabled list: Marlins' Josh Johnson, Pirates' Pedro Alvarez, Indians' Travis Hafner and Alex White, Phillies' Shane Victorino, Giants' Mark DeRosa, Dodgers' Juan Uribe and Orioles' Derrek Lee and Brian Roberts. That doesn't include guys already on the DL. The Red Sox, for instance, used Alfredo Aceves and Tim Wakefield in spot starts.
Other notables left games early or were late scratches. The Brewers' Ryan Braun had a sore shoulder; the Rays' B.J. Upton had muscle tightness; the Cubs' Marlon Byrd was hit in the face with a pitch; the White Sox' Carlos Quentin had a sore knee; and the Cubs' Matt Garza fell ill.