When interleague play becomes an everyday occurrence next year, we’ll no longer be able to use the phrase I’m about to below:
Man, are the Yankees going to miss interleague play or what?
The two-plus weeks of AL vs. NL action has always created some strange bedfellows, and while the Yankees have always been great against the NL, this year, the interleague stretch as been the catalyst for their surge to the top…and not just by their own hand.
When everyone woke up on June 8, Tampa Bay had just reclaimed first place from the Yankees, who were 32-25 and a half-game out in the AL East. Baltimore was hot on their heels a half-game behind that mark, and even the last-place Red Sox were a .500 team that was just five games out.
Cut to 17 days later, and after a 12-3 stretch that included a 10-game winning streak at the outset, the Bombers are now 43-28, 2 ½ games up on Baltimore with Tampa Bay a game behind the Orioles in third place.
That 10-game streak will never hurt, of course, but remember what I said above in regards to strange bedfellows? Well, look at what fans of various East teams had to deal with over the last couple weeks:
Yankees fans rooted hard against the Mets for on the bookend weekends of interleague, but in between, surely rooted hard for them as they swept both the Rays and Orioles.
Nationals fans, meanwhile, may have hated the Yankees for sweeping them in DC, but loved that the Yanks went 9-3 against the Mets and Braves (a record that helped the Nats increase their NL East lead as well).
In between, Mets fans likely hated the Red Sox (who said 1986 was long enough) for getting swept by Washington, but may have reversed their tune after the Sox went 7-2 against Miami and Atlanta.
And, when all was said and done, the Nationals had extended their lead in the NL East thanks in large part to the AL East, and the Yankees had gone from half-game down to 2 ½ up in that same span.
Even if you don’t get caught up in the hoopla of rooting for or against the “lesser of two evils” in one of those matchups, this year’s craziness will most certainly be missed next year when there’s an AL vs. NL game every night.
Unless, for some reason, the Yankees are playing an easier AL opponent in the final week of the 2012 season while their AL East rivals have to play the likes of the Nats, Mets, or Dodgers…