It’s that time of the season: time for interleague play. This weekend the Phillies open interleague play against the Texas Rangers. During the summer, the Phillies will take on the Seattle Mariners, Oakland Athletics, Boston Red Sox, and Toronto Blue Jays.
The Phillies don’t have an easy interleague schedule; only the Mariners and Blue Jays sit near the bottom of their division. However, it doesn’t really come down to which teams the Phillies play. Recent history has shown that the Phillies struggle when it comes to facing the American League. In Charlie Manuel’s tenure as manager, the Phillies are 40-59 against the AL, which ranks among the bottom of all NL teams.
It’s not unusual for a National League team to struggle against the opposing league. Since 2004, the American League has dominated the NL during interleague play. The Phillies are no exception.
Last season, the Phillies had a 10-8 record during interleague play, the first time they had a winning record against the AL in several years. A big reason to that winning record was a sweep of the Cleveland Indians, who were terrible. Otherwise, it was tough road.
The Phillies may be starting interleague play at a bad time. They’re barely scoring any runs. The Phillies have not faced the Rangers since 2008, but now may be a good time to face them. The Phillies are slumping offensively, and the Rangers are known more for their offense than pitching.
Sometimes it helps playing the same team each year. The Phillies faced the Blue Jays and Red Sox a lot over the past few seasons, but haven’t been able to figure those two teams out. Since 2008, the Phillies are 5-7 against the Blue Jays. The Phillies have minimal success against Boston, posting a 17-26 all time record against them. Last year, the Phillies were 2-4 against the Red Sox. Since 2008, the Phillies are 4-8 against them, and 6-18 since 2003. If the Phillies want better interleague success, it is key to play better against these two teams.
The Mariners may be in last place, but they should not be taken lightly. Hopefully the Phillies are out of their offensive funk before the Seattle series, but don’t expect a lot of runs if they face Felix Hernandez.
Oakland may have had low expectations, but they find themselves in second place behind the Rangers. The A’s roster mixes in young talented players with experienced ones. Entering Thursday, the A’s had the best team earned run average in baseball.
There is reason to believe that the Phillies can turn around their interleague struggles this season. Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay (and even Joe Blanton) both have a chance to face their former clubs. Also, Roy Oswalt has a 3.73 career ERA against the AL. Ryan Howard has 26 home runs in 303 interleague at-bats. In addition, Chase Utley could make a return in June, when most interleague games take place.