There’s no use in arguing it. It is what it is, which admittedly, for us is not much.
Still, it’s a little difficult to take a general perusal of the slate of games laid out for the rest of us tonight and deny the allure that interleague play provides. That’s correct, allure. Give unto others, right? Maybe that should be the official interleague slogan for places like Boston, San Diego, Seattle, and Philadelphia.
So while they enjoy enticing regional AL-NL showdowns in places like New York, Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Missouri, Texas, the DC beltway, Chicago, and (ahem) Florida (the Indians are playing the Pirates for some reason; the Reds the Tigers), the Red Sox will be in Philadelphia to take on the Phillies. It is a matchup with its only real history being Trot Nixon’s game-winning slam back in 2003. Its only animosity being that everyone from New England despises those “Baby New York” Southwest ads.
I know, you’re missing that old, traditional Red Sox-Atlanta rivalry. Patience, you’ll get the former Boston Braves later in June. But the Phillies are your team’s “rival” now. Deal with it. Sit back, pop some pretzels and enjoy the culture.
David Ortiz will play first base tonight, no DH by the NL rules of course. That means either Mike Lowell or Kevin Youkilis will have to sit. Theo Epstein told NESN’s Eric Frede earlier this week that the matter is “a good problem to have.” Right. Unless Alex (.206) Gonzalez is your shortstop. Heck, tonight's starter, Matt Clement, could justifiably hit eighth tonight, seventh if Willie Harris is in center, which after Wednesday night’s pony league-level blunder, he won’t be.
Do we have sixth? Jason Varitek is batting just .231, a concerning trend that is creeping away from your easy “slow start” excuse. Doug Mirabelli is hitting just .167 in limited duty. But I guess this is a good problem to have, needing to remove one of your two best performers while others in the lineup continue to scuffle as we hurtle toward June. I have to assume employing Rudy Seanez is a good problem to have too.
Likely it will be Youkilis, Lowell more adept at playing third, which is a hard knock for the Red Sox to suffer both offensively and defensively. His .424 on-base percentage isn’t surprising for a guy nicknamed “The Greek God of Walks,” but his stellar glove on the right side of the diamond is. Who bats leadoff tonight? Trot Nixon is getting on base at a .438 clip, and with the Sox facing a trio of righties, might get that call all weekend.
Tonight, we could be looking at:
1. Trot Nixon, RF
2. Mark Loretta, 2B
3. David Ortiz, 1B
4. Manny Ramirez, LF
5. Jason Varitek, C
6. Mike Lowell, 3B
7. Wily Mo Pena, CF
8. Alex Gonzalez, SS
9. Matt Clement, P
It could be better. But let’s face it, it’s not as bad as those who want Youkilis to immediately learn to play shortstop would lead you to believe, as if all four infield positions were that easily interchangeable. Just have Ortiz catch then. Terry Francona will likely rotate Ortiz, Youkilis, and Lowell in and out of the lineup all weekend, or at the very least, Youkilis and Ortiz.
The Red Sox were 12-6 against the NL last season, which was by far their best mark since interleague play began a decade ago. Clement, the former NL hurler, was a big part of that, going 4-1 in interleague action in 2005 - tying him with the Angels’ Brendan Donnelly for the most wins - including a nifty seven-inning, one-run win at Citizens Bank Park, where he will toe the rubber tonight.
Bitter interleague rivals? Hardly. But let the New Yorks and Bay Areas of the baseball world have their fun. Interleague baseball may be no fun here (it isn’t Toronto-Colorado either) but the gimmick unequivocally seems to play well elsewhere, particularly with the addition of the Nationals. Even if the fans don't seem too into it, you know if there’s one series Peter Angelos wants to win all season long, it’s this weekend when his Orioles face his own, personal truly bitter rivals from Washington. Yankee fans can whip their "Who's Your Daddy?" t-shirts out of mothballs tomorrow as they watch Pedro Martinez go for the Mets. Marlins and Devil Rays fans can go head-to-head to prove who could care less. The Cardinals can show David Glass what an actual, honest to goodness, baseball team from Missouri looks like.
And if the Red Sox have to deal with the Phillies for all that to materialize, well then so be it.