Last year, the Nationals went 5-13 in interleague play. This year, they improved to 8-7, and it could have been much better had they been able to avert the three-game sweep at the wings of the Angels. This year's version featured a split of six games with the Orioles, a sweep of the Mariners at home and series win over the White Sox in Chicago. The Sox hadn't lost an interleague series since '08, so that was noteworthy, especially for the Nats to do that at U.S. Cellular Field.
Losing to the Angels was nothing to be ashamed of, as Los Angeles/Anaheim has racked up the best won-loss record of any major league team in the interleague era.
There are still some interleague games to be played this weekend, but here are some interesting numbers as the National League continues to make up ground on the American League:
The American League leads this year, but it's close at 107-103, the most even it has been in years. The AL East leads the way at 41-34, while the AL Central went 34-41 and the AL West 32-28.
The Nats' division, the NL East, has gone 37-32, the NL Central a poor 33-45 and the NL West 33-30. If you can draw any conclusions from all this, it appears the best clubs are in the East in both leagues, then the West, with the central divisions lacking success.
The belief has been for years that the AL would suffer in NL parks by losing the DH, while the NL would have the advantage in AL parks by adding the DH to their lineup and taking the bats out of pitchers' hands. It just hasn't worked out that way, as the AL has dominated by pounding NL pitching in all parks.
I'll have more detail in my next blog as far as AL-NL matchups with hitting and pitching, but at least the National League is no longer being embarrassed against the AL.
This 10-day, 11-game homestand may define the Nats' season. They play three beatable teams, though the Pirates are much better this year, doing it with pitching (most notably closer Joel Hanrahan) plus mediocre defense and hitting. The Cubs and Rockies follow, both clubs capable of big offense.
First, the Nationals need to get Davey Johnson a win, relax and go from there. They have played the fewest number of home games of any major league team, so it's now time to take these 11 games and charge into the All-Star break well over .500. An important trip to Atlanta, Houston and Los Angeles awaits after the break.
By the way, a third trip to the West Coast in just over a month, and the second to play just one Pacific time zone team while there, screams for some common sense when it comes to scheduling. The Nats just played the Angels after a trip to Chicago, then play the Dodgers after playing in two other time zones. Where's the sense in that?
In today's business world, everyone is trying to cut expenses and save money; that is, except for Major League Baseball. Why couldn't the Nats have played the Angels, then hopped on the bus for an hour to play the Dodgers? Instead, they paid for two extra cross-country flights, arriving home in the wee hours twice.
They could have played the Braves, White Sox and Astros together on a three-city trip, all with short flights in between. The Nationals also played teams from every division in the American League this year, making little sense. Interleague play has really messed up traveling and scheduling like never before.
But it is great to finally be home, and it's time for that early July run that could make things around here very interesting in August and September!