Interleague play returns, starting on Friday.
I have previously expressed my thoughts about it here. I still believe that it has run its course, and if we’re going to have continue to deal with it, then I still think some changes need to be made in order to keep interleague play fresh and interesting. I know a lot of baseball fans like it just as it is now; I am not one of them. Actually, it’s not that I don’t like it. I’m just over it. It’s just not that big a deal to me anymore.
This second round of interleague play differs greatly from round one for me personally, because it may just cause my brain to explode into lots of tiny pieces. Why? Because my two favorite teams will be playing each other next week. Yes, the Washington Nationals will play the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium, next Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday — the 16th, 17th, and 18th.
This is a huge dilemma for me. It probably shouldn’t be, but it is. The reality of this series, most likely, is that the Yankees will sweep and not fall too far behind the Red Sox in the AL.East (assuming that they haven’t regained the lead by then). As a Yankees fan, that is exactly what I should be hoping for — a sweep of the Nationals. After all, the Yankees are battling the Red Sox, and the Blue Jays too, actually, for the division lead. The Nationals are dead last in the NL East, with the worst record in baseball (again).
But…I’m also a Nationals fan.
Taking at least 2 of 3 games at Yankee Stadium would be a tremendous shot in the arm for a struggling Nationals team. It might even be enough to boost them into an actual winning streak of more than just 3 games in a row! (The Nats have won 3 straight games only once this season.)
How could I possibly root for my home team to be swept?
How could I possibly root for my other team to lose any games when they’re in a tight battle for the top spot in their division?
The last — and only — time the Nationals and Yankees faced each other in interleague play was three years ago, also on June 16-18. The Yankees won the first game; the Nationals won the second game. In the third game, Chien-Ming Wang pitched extremely well for 8 innings. But in the bottom of the 9th, with the Yankees leading 2-1, Marlon Anderson singled, and then Ryan Zimmerman hit a walk-off home run. Final score: Nationals 3, Yankees 2. The celebration at home plate was immortalized in a mural above the Scoreboard Walk at Nationals Park.
For many Nationals fans, this victory over the Yankees (on Father’s Day), and this series win, is one of the highlights of the Nationals brief history in Washington. I wore a Yankees cap and a Nationals t-shirt to the first game, a Nats
cap and Yankees t-shirt to the second game…and a Redskins cap and
t-shirt to the third game. I was conflicted then, and I’m conflicted now.
AAAUUUUGGHHHH!!! What am I going to do???
Since my two favorite teams are the Nationals and the Yankees, I did a bit of internet searching to see if there are any baseball-related connections between the two cities, other than the final Senators game in DC in 1971 and the interleague series between the Yankees and Nationals in 2006. I discovered the following:
1924 — The Washington Senators won their first American League pennant, finishing two games ahead of the New York Yankees (and Babe Ruth). The Senators then went on to win the World Series, defeating the New York Giants in seven games.
1933 — The Senators won the American League pennant, finishing seven games ahead of the Yankees, but lost the World Series to the Giants in five games.
1943 — The Senators finished second in the American League, 13.5 games behind the Yankees who would then go on to win the World Series over the St. Louis Cardinals.
1971 — The Senators’ final series in Washington, before moving to Texas to become the Rangers, was against the Yankees. On September 28, the Senators won the first game, 4-2. On September 29, the Yankees won, 6-3. In the final, fateful game on September 30, the Senators were leading the Yankees 7-5 with two outs in the ninth inning. And then hundreds of angry young fans, knowing that the Senators would be moving to Texas the following season, stormed the field and vandalized it. Unable to clear the field, the umpires declared a forfeit to the Yankees.
2006 — The Yankees returned to RFK Stadium for the first time since 1971, to face the Washington Nationals in an interleague matchup on June 16-18. The Yankees won the first game, by the ironic score of 7-5. The Nationals won the second game, 11-9, on a blown save by Mariano Rivera. The third game of that series, played on Father’s Day, featured strong performances by both starting pitchers — Chien-Ming Wang of the Yankees and Mike O’Connor of the Nationals. With one out in the ninth inning and the Yankees leading 2-1, the Nationals’ Marlon Anderson hit a single, which was followed by a walk-off home run by Ryan Zimmerman. The Nationals stunned the Yankees, 3-2. It was one of the highlights of the season for the Nationals, who finished the season at the bottom of NL East with a 71-91 record, while the Yankees finished with a record of 97-65 and won the AL East.
2009 — The Nationals will face the Yankees in interleague play at Yankee Stadium, once again on June 16-18. What will happen this time?!