Interleague rivalries return

BOB ELLIOTT -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:34 AM ET

The Blue Jays open interleague play tonight at Coors Field in Denver against the Colorado Rockies.

Which means the Montreal Expos' visit is only days away ... oh, that's right, never mind.

This is commissioner Bud Selig's best -- some say only -- idea since he brought interleague into play in 1997.

The traditional faves dominate the weekend.

The New York Yankees and the New York Mets battle at Shea Stadium. The Chicago Cubs visit the south side to play the World Series champion White Sox. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim hike up the freeway to play the Dodgers. And the San Francisco Giants cross the Bay Bridge to play the A's in Oakland.

UNLIKELY SCENARIO

Everyone figured Barry Bonds would tie Babe Ruth with his 714th homer in an American League park, right?

Some other interleague factoids and things to watch as the AL tries to improve on its 1,096-1,104 record against the NL:

- The Cubs are looking for someone to DH while the Sox will have Jim Thome. In the previous four years of interleague, the Cubs hit seven home runs, all by players no longer with them -- Sammy Sosa (two), Jason Dubois, Todd Hollandsworth, Moises Alou and Fred McGriff.

- The A's are 95-63 for the best win percentage (.601) in interleague play. They are 26-24 against the Giants, 69-39 against other NL teams.

- The Mets are 19-29 against the Yanks, including 8-16 at Yankee Stadium. The Mets have the career interleague RBI leader in Carlos Delgado, who has 123, which is 10 more than Thome.

- The surprising Detroit Tigers host the surprising Cincinnati Reds. Two years ago, the Reds were in first place in the NL Central by 2 1/2 games on June 12 and 12 games over .500. They then played three games in Oakland and three in Cleveland, went 0-6, dropped out of first and finished 10 games under.

- The Baltimore Orioles renew an old rivalry, visiting Washington to play the Nationals in a Battle of the Beltways. The Nats played the Jays last season because the schedule was drawn up before the Expos moved. The O's and Senators were long-time rivals from 1954-71 when both played in the AL, with the O's running up a 224-126 record, thanks in part to Frank Robinson, now the Nats manager.

- The Philadelphia Phillies used to have the Orioles as their natural rival. Now they play host to the Boston Red Sox and later go to Fenway Park. Games in Philly already are sold out. One-time Phillies Curt Schilling and Terry Francona, the Red Sox manager, make returns to Philadelphia.

- The Florida Marlins visit Tampa Bay to face the Devil Rays this weekend in a series most of Florida doesn't care about. But say this about the Marlins: They have the third-best interleague record at 87-63 (.580), behind only the A's and the Yanks (93-63).

- The Texas Rangers visit the Astros in Houston. Most years, the winner wins the Golden Boot. This year? Possibly the rights to Roger Clemens at $4 million US a month. The Rangers won the series for the first time in 2005.

- The Kansas City Royals have taken their interleague lumps and will do so again against the St. Louis Cardinals. But it won't be bad at the gate. Albert Pujols, who attended Maplewood College in suburban K.C., pays a visit. The Royals' average attendance in interleague play is 26,607. They haven't averaged that in a full season since drawing 27,019 in 1991. They anticipate a three-game weekend total around 100,000.

- The Milwaukee Brewers hook up at home against the Minnesota Twins, their natural rivals. Despite Minnesota being better in the standings recently, the Brewers are 10-8 versus the Twins. In 2004, the Brewers were 4-2 against the Twins, the only losses coming in games pitched by Johan Santana.

- The Pittsburgh Pirates open interleague play with a three-game series at Cleveland against the Indians. The Pirates have long lobbied to make the Indians their natural rivalry so they could play home-and-home series each year. The cities are only two hours apart and have a huge NFL rivalry between the Steelers and Browns. Yet, MLB has the Indians and Reds as natural rivals.

Interleague is like regular season ... not everyone is happy.


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