Friday , Jun , 30 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Interleague Play – The Final Weekend

*** Interleague Play – The Final Weekend ***

by Jeff Frank, Contributing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – Heading into the last three days of
interleague play, the American League is in complete control, winning 131
of the 210 games (.619) The National League had the early advantage, taking 22
of the first 42 games. However, since that opening weekend, the AL has ripped
up the NL with a 111-57 (.660) record.

Last season, the Junior Circuit began creeping up on the Senior Circuits
overall lead, winning 136 of 252 (.540) games to lower its overall deficit to
only eight games. Regardless of what transpires this weekend, the AL will
maintain its lead, and with the way the two leagues are playing, it will be
tough for the NL to regain its advantage.

It’s all in the results.

The American League has won three of the last four World Series and six of the
last eight. From 1983 on, the AL has taken 15 of the 22 series. Even the All-
Star game has been futile for the National League. The AL has won 16 of the
last 22, including eight in a row, not including the infamous “tie” game.

Its obvious the AL is by far the better league.

The American League dominated the National League earlier in the week, taking
nine of 14 series and winning 27 of the 42 games. For betting purposes, those
who wagered on the AL team in every single interleague game would be up over
1,000 units.

How will things play out this weekend? One has to think the National League
would like nothing more than to club the living daylights out of its
counterpart, probably not going to happen. The best advice is to stick
with all American League clubs and ride the wave until it ends.

SIX KEY PLAYS

Time to get your pens out and jot down this weekend selections, beginning with
the Dodgers and the Angels.

The Dodgers are 6-15 this month, not counting their four-game win streak last
week. They are also 9-21 in their last 28 interleague games.

Grady Littles team has lost seven of their last eight away from home and has
not had any success playing in Anaheim the last few seasons. They have won
just two of nine games and getting swept twice.

On Saturday afternoon, Mark Hendrickson will make his Dodgers debut after
coming over from Tampa Bay. The former college basketball player at Washington
State faced Los Angeles twice last year at Angel Stadium, winning both games.
However, he gave up 17 hits in 13 innings with a 5.54 ERA. In his last two
outings this season, Hendrickson is 1-1 with a 4.80 ERA.

The Angels will send out Kelvim Escobar, who is 0-7 since May 12. However, the
30-year-old righthander has four quality starts in his last five, giving up
only eight runs in over 29 innings.

EDGE: Angels.

The series continues Sunday afternoon when John Lackey takes on rookie Chad
Billingsley. Like Escobar, Lackey has only one poor game since the middle of
May. If you take out the 12-6 loss to Seattle, Lackeys ERA since May 23 is an
amazing 1.47. He has also given up only 27 hits in those 43 innings.

Billingsley, on the other hand, has started only three big-league games and
has not pitched into the seventh inning in any of them. His 5.63 ERA is
unimpressive, as well as his 13-6 walks/strikeouts ratio in 16 innings
pitched.

EDGE: Angels.

Another west coast series that bears watching is Arizona-Oakland. The
Diamondbacks, prior to Friday night, have won only three of their last 23
games. Whats even more telling is that 16 of those 23 contests were played at
home! They have allowed an average of eight runs a game in their past six
match-ups and are now in last place in the NL West.

Meanwhile, the first-place A’s have won 18 of their last 25 games, including
nine of 10 at home. Esteban Loaiza is 3-1 since returning from the DL on June
8, while Miguel Batista is 1-3 in his last four starts, allowing 22 runs in 22
1/3 innings.

EDGE: Athletics

Sundays game pits Brandon Webb and Barry Zito in a battle of two eight-game
winners. Webb began the season 8-0, but has not won since May 26, and the D-
Backs are 0-6 in his last six starts. The righthander is -710 units since May
31.

Zito is 6-1 since May 12 and is +405 units since the beginning of June. The
lefty won his only lifetime start against Arizona going six frames, allowing
only one run, and striking out 10.

The Diamondbacks are 1-11 in interleague games heading into this series, while
Oakland is tops among all 30 teams in wins and percentage against the other
league at 103-70.

EDGE: Athletics

The final match-up to keep an eye on is Tampa Bay at Washington. The Nationals
are 3-13 in their last 16 games, with two five-game losing streaks. They are
0-5 in their last five as favorites and will be favored in all three this
weekend.

Livan Hernandez gets the call on Saturday and the Cuban native has given up 14
runs in his last 14 1/3 innings. Hes allowed 35 hits in 26 career frames vs.
the Devil Rays with a 5.54 ERA.

James Shields (4-1) will go for Tampa Bay. The rookie is +325 units in his six
lifetime starts and will be a live underdog play against Washington.

EDGE: Devil Rays

Ramon Ortiz starts Sundays game for the Nationals vs. Jae Seo, who came to
Tampa in the Mark Hendrickson deal. Ortiz is 0-2 in his last three starts with
a 6.62 ERA. Seo makes his first start since June 2 when he gave up three
runs in four innings against the Phillies.

Seo did not perform up to his abilities in a Dodger uniform and the change of
scenery will definitely help. Besides, the D-Rays are 10-5 in interleague play
this season, while the Nationals are on the opposite end of the spectrum at
5-10.

EDGE: Devil Rays

I implore everyone to go strong with the American League this weekend since
this is the last time to take advantage of this all-important trend.