|The Yanks are about to embark on a 2+ week mission of interleague play against the teams of the National League East, a land where pitchers have to touch bats and bench players frequently get a chance to pinch hit. Some may argue that the results of interleague games are fairly irrelevant—what is the difference, after all, if the Yankees beat the Phillies when it is the teams in our own division they should be concentrating on—but the Yanks know that any opportunity to improve their record by playing teams other than the Red Sox should not be taken lightly! I myself enjoy the games, especially the ones played at NL stadiums; I like watching pitchers bat, and knowing that Torre will have to do some serious bench managing is always exciting.
Here’s a brief rundown of what the Yanks will be up against on their interleague operation:
Series 1: vs Washington Nationals at RKF Stadium
June 16, 17, 18
Nats’ Current Record: 30-38 (Home: 13-18, Away: 17-20), 4th place in NL East
Who to Watch: Former Yanks Nick Johnson (1B) and Soriano (OF) are both having a great season. Johnson is hitting .309 with 33 RBIs and an incredible .436 OPS, and Soriano is hitting .289 with 47 RBIs (13th best in the NL).
Difficulty Level: 4 out of 10. The Yankees should be able to sweep the Nat’s without much trouble. Giambi’s hand has healed enough to allow him to play/hit, and Bubba is back from the DL and available for pinch hitting/pinch running duties.
Series 2: vs Philadelphia Phillies at Citizen’s Bank Ballpark
June 19, 20, 21
Phillies’ Current Record: 33-33 (Home: 16-19, Away: 17-14), 2nd place in NL East
Who to Watch: Outfielder Shane Victorino is hitting a sweet .318 right now, but the real man to watch out for is closer (and former Yank) Tom Gordon, who has 18 saves in 19 opportunities and has allowed just 5 earned runs in 28 innings!
Difficulty Level: 5 out of 10. The Phillies started out strong and although they’ve been slipping a bit as of late they should not be discounted. They have strong offense in Abreu, Howard, Utley and Victorino, a fairly solid bullpen with Gordon, Greary, and Cormier. The good news for A-Rod, Phillips, and Giambi is that Citizen’s Bank Ballpark is approximately the size of my backyard and they should be able to knock some balls out of the park.
Series 3: vs Florida Marlins at Yankees Stadium
June 23, 24, 25
Marlins’ Current Record: 26-37 (Home: 12-17, Away: 14-20), 5th place in NL East
Who to Watch: Dontrelle Willis, of course. He’s off to a slow start, but there’s no doubt that he’s capable of shutting a team down. He’s also one of the pitchers rumored to be a possible future Yankee, so keep your eye on him.
Difficulty Level: 2 out of 10. They have won 7 of their last 10 games, but even with the plentitude of Yankees injuries I cannot fathom the Marlins dominating the Yanks at home.
Series 4: vs Atlanta Braves at Yankees Stadium
June 26, 27, 28
Braves’ Current Record: 30-37 (Home: 14-14, Away: 16-23), 3rd place in NL East
Who to Watch: Brian McCann and Matt Diaz both have averages above .350, and Andruw Jones and Jeff Francouer have 57 and 47 RBIs respectively, making Atlanta’s outfield a true force to contend with.
Difficulty Level: 3 out of 10. Atlanta has been a perennial presence at the top of the charts for years, but they have really been fumbling this year. They just got swept by the Marlins and have a very poor road win-loss percentage, making their chances of winning at Yankees Stadium pretty slim.
Series 5: vs NY Mets at Yankees Stadium
June 30, July 1, 2
Mets’ Current Record: 42-23 (Home: 19-11, Away: 23-12), 1st place in NL East
Who to Watch: The Mets have a mob of hot players right now: 3rd baseman David Wright is hitting .335, outfielder Carlos Beltran is hitting .300 with 18 homers, and 1st baseman Carlos Delgado has 19 homers and 49 RBIs. They've also got great pitchers coming out of the bullpen, including Duaner Sanchez and Billy Wagner.
Difficulty Level: 10 out of 10. Everything has been coming together for the Mets this year, from the pitching to the offense to the management. They are doing everything they can to become “THE” New York team, and the Yanks are going to have to be on their best game to beat them.