Spoils of Interleague Play again go to the AL
Junior Circuit captures IL superiority for eighth straight year
Its All-Star Game streak might be history, but the American League still has some Interleague Play pride going for it.
The AL continued its reign over the National League in the annual session of regular-season games across league borders, taking the 2011 version by an overall count of 131-121. The NL heads into the All-Star Game as the team with the Midsummer Classic crown after ending a 14-year drought last summer, but Interleague Play is one area the AL continues to wear out its counterpart.
This makes eight years in a row the AL has held the cumulative advantage -- dating back to 2003 -- and the AL has held sway in 11 of the first 15 Interleague slates. On the big tote board, the all-time series now stands at 1,939-1,773 in favor of the Junior Circuit.
- 131 wins
- 121 wins
Along the way this year were potential World Series previews, with Red Sox-Phillies, Yankees-Brewers and Tigers-Giants highlighting the last chunk of the schedule. Past World Series matchups -- such as Orioles-Pirates, Phillies-Blue Jays and Yankees-Reds -- were also revisited on today's fields. Special moments like Roy Halladay's return to Toronto became part of Interleague's ongoing legacy.
Once again, Interleague Play was a hit, bottom line. At least it was in the stands, as an average crowd of 33,606 and total of 8,468,620 fans watching AL-NL bouts represented an increase over last year's 33,253 average and total of 8,379,834. It's also a 9 percent increase over the overall regular-season average of 30,808.
And, once again, the Yankees led the way for the AL on the field -- Sunday's surprise ending at Citi Field notwithstanding. With a 13-5 mark, the Yankees not only shared the best record the Majors with the Angels, but also increased their all-time best record in Interleague Play to 157-107 (.595), staying ahead of the White Sox at 154-111 (.581).
Other teams finishing in double figures in wins this session were the Indians and White Sox of the AL Central (both 11-7), the Giants (10-5) and D-backs (10-8) of the NL West, the Rays (12-6) and Red Sox (10-8) of the AL East and the Braves (10-5). Not coincidentally, all of the above are currently contending, as postseason races begin to heat up into the summer.
As the 15th season of Interleague Play played out, White Sox lefty Mark Buehrle became the all-time leader in Interleague victories with 24, while Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter maintained the all-time lead at 326 hits despite missing most of this session of Interleague Play; the Mariners' Ichiro Suzuki continued to lead in Interleague hits since 2001 with 278.
Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez drove in 12 runs to up his all-time high RBI total to 198, and the Twins' Jim Thome added a couple of homers this weekend against the Brewers to bump his all-time Interleague total to 58 -- and of more importance his career total to 595.
Overall, the Mariners proved to be the tightest pitching staff this session of Interleague Play, finishing with a 1.68 mark, thanks in part to a 1.08 ERA by Doug Fister which was the fifth best in the Majors. The Marlins' Javier Vazquez finished with a 0.71 ERA to lead both leagues among pitchers throwing 20 or more innings, followed by the Tigers' Justin Verlander (0.75), the Giants' Tim Lincecum (0.82), the A's Gio Gonzalez (0.94) and Fister.
At the plate, the Red Sox led the way with a .300 average and 100 runs, both tops in the Majors. The Yankees followed with 93 runs and the Mets led the NL at .287 with 91 runs. Toronto's Jose Bautista extended his overall lead in homers with eight Interleague bombs, with the Rays' Evan Longoria and the Twins' Danny Valencia tying with 18 RBIs. No surprise, but Adrian Gonzalez of the Red Sox fared well in two of the Triple Crown categories, finishing second to the Orioles' Nick Markakis (.463) at .423 with 17 RBIs, but just two homers.
Add it up, and all the numbers and all the performances of Interleague Play 2011 are now filed away, part of the massive collection of highlights and stats and wins and losses that make up the 162-game season.
In the end, if it's league vs. league, it's still the AL's game when it comes to Interleague Play. This year's tally continued a trend of the NL gaining on the AL, with the AL going from a 149-103 advantage in 2008 to 137-114 in '09 and then 134-118 last year, tightening the margin, if only slightly this year.
For now, regardless of how things shake out in Phoenix, Interleague Play remains the American League's domain.
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.