(Saturday, early am)
When the first set of final scores started coming in early last night I thought to myself, "My goodness! What's happened to the American League this year?" But then, just a few minutes ago, when I refreshed the screen, I noted that the American League had won the majority of this first salvo of interleague games, 8-6. I guess I was just paying attention to the Blue Jays, Red Sox and Yankees - all from the American League East and in our 'club', and all of whom lost last night to their National League foes.
Reeling from their sweep by the Sox the three games prior, the Blue Jays are barely hanging onto 1st place in their division by half a game over the 2nd place Red Sox. The Yankees are one and a half games back. It's a tight division at this point.
Interleague play will continue in earnest in mid and late June, when many games are scheduled between the two leagues. The Astros will again play the Rangers, this time at their stadium in Arlington. (They're here this weekend.) This series is of long-standing, not one created by MLB's initial setup of interleague games in 1997, although - prior to that time, we only met in preseason games.
This year we'll be playing against three teams from the American League Central ... the Kansas City Royals, the Minnesota Twins and the Detroit Tigers. And the Rangers again, of course. That's a fun rivalry. We play for the Silver Boot, which is kind of neat. (Apologize for the quality of the photo. Even if I crop it, those hoses will show [What are those all about, anyway?!?], so I decided not to. ... ... You know what? I think this photo must have been taken during pre-game activities, and the hoses were there for selective wetting-down of the base lines. If I find a better picture, I'll replace this one and delete these parenthetical comments.)
In the eight years since this trophy made its first appearance, the Astros have won it only three times in the six-game (3 at home and 3 away) annual series. Never has one team completely dominated the other. There were three years - 2001, 2004 and 2008 - when the series was tied at three games apiece. According to the rules established at the beginning, in the event of a tie the team scoring the most points overall in that series is declared the winner of the Silver Boot. Historically, even tho the Astros are leading with a 'games won' total of 25-24, they are behind in the number of times they've been able to take home the Silver Boot and show it off. We haven't had it in our possession since 2006. We lost a nail-biter in the 10th (6-5) last night. We'll see what happens this afternoon. I'll be watching.
There are only two National League teams who will not be involved in interleague play this weekend ... the Chicago Cubs and the San Diego Padres, who are competing against each other out west. The Cubs are continuing their downward spiral, unfortunately. However, when interleague play resumes in earnest in June, the Cubs will play against the Chicago White Sox (who, I would assume, are their natural rivals in the American League) in a six-game series, home and away. That'll be fun to watch! I wonder what kind of trophy they have? There's probably an interesting story there.
Now, the Atlanta Braves squeaked out a victory over the Toronto Blue Jays last night by a score of 1-0 (no doubt a very well-pitched game). It was played in Atlanta, where - according to MLB's current rules in these interleague games - a designated hitter (DH) was not allowed because the game was being played in a National League park. I wouldn't think that the Blue Jays have a 'natural rival' in the National League, per se, now that the Montreal Expos have become the Washington Nationals. I've looked at the Jays' June schedule, and don't see a return match there against the Braves. And, I see only one series scheduled against the Nationals in June, so I guess they are no longer considered natural rivals. Instead, I see two series (home and away) against the Philadelphia Phillies. (A case of MLB trying to create a 'traditional' rivalry here, or is this just my ignorance of a long-established history between these two teams?)
The Braves do not play against the Blue Jays again in June. They will have a six-game set (home and away) against the Boston Red Sox, instead. Is that a natural rivalry? Again, I don't know their history well enough to comment one way or the other. Patrick's division (National League East), on the other hand, has been interesting to watch - particularly since the Marlins started their free-fall.
I would have thought that the Yankees and Mets were natural rivals (that is, after the Dodgers moved a few thousand miles west eons ago), and - sure enough - was pleased to note that they will be meeting (home and away) in June.
Let's see. Who have I left out? The Cardinals, of course! They hosted the Kansas City Royals last night (extending their current winning streak to four games) - I would guess that's a fairly long-standing rivalry - and will be meeting them again in June. Some kind of trophy there? Probably.
I didn't check the whole major league's schedule for June to see which two National League teams would be playing each other, but there will be two ... the National League has 16 teams and the American League has 14 ... the only thing I know for sure (unless I've made a gross error, which is certainly possible) is that it won't be the same two!
Well, that's it for today. Started this hours ago when I first woke up, then went back to bed and have just now finished proofing it. Found a bunch of errors. There are probably more, but I'm going to hit the "Publish Post" button anyway. Have other fish to fry. Later!