Five interleague matchups to watch this weekend

The second round of interleague play begins this afternoon when the Cubs host the White Sox in a series that certainly lacks some luster compared to previous seasons. Much of the intrigue will center around which veterans each team will try to deal before the July 31 nonwaiver trading deadline.

You can make a case that Cubs-White Sox actually is the least appealing matchup of the weekend. The only other interleague series that pits two sub-.500 teams (Nationals-Indians) will involve rookie phenom Stephen Strasburg.

Despite a couple of clunkers, however, there are some appealing pairings. A look at this weekend’s five interleague matchups between teams at .500 or better:

Ben Francisco figures to see time at DH.
Ben Francisco figures to see time at DH.

Phillies at Red Sox
Boston won two of three at Philadelphia during the first round of interleague play last month and leads the series 16-5 since 2004. As usual, both teams are in playoff contention this season, though neither would be in the postseason if the regular season ended today.

DH matters: With the DH in play at Fenway Park, Ben Francisco figures to benefit the most. Greg Dobbs, Ross Gload and Wilson Valdez also could get more playing time if the Phillies use the DH to rest Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.
Matchup to watch: Daisuke Matsuzaka vs. the Phillies’ hitters (Saturday). Philadelphia’s offense, which still isn’t up to par, nearly hit rock bottom when Dice-K held them without a hit for 7 2/3 innings on May 22 at Citizens Bank Park.
Interleague intrigue: The Red Sox’s .801 OPS during interleague play is the best in the majors since the interleague play began in 1997.

Braves at Twins
The NL East leaders will make their first visit to Target Field to take on the AL Central leaders. Both teams rank in the top 10 in ERA, but the pitchers will be put to the test with Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Troy Glaus and Jason Heyward, among others, ready to take their cuts.

DH matters: Nate McLouth is banged up after his collision with Jason Heyward in the outfield Wednesday, so he could handle the DH duties for Atlanta (if he doesn’t land on the disabled list). Either way, Eric Hinske should get more at-bats than usual. To reduce his wear and tear, Chipper Jones also could DH, with Omar Infante starting at third base.
Matchup to watch: Tim Hudson vs. Jim Thome (tonight). The Twins’ DH is 9-for-16 (.563) with four homers, four walks, nine RBIs and a 2.057 OPS against the Braves’ righthander in his career.
Interleague intrigue: The Twins’ 134 interleague wins are tied with the Yankees’ for the most all-time.

Angels at Dodgers One month ago, the Los Angeles teams were a combined six games under .500 and 8 1/2 games out of first place. The Dodgers will begin the freeway series with a one-game lead in the NL West, while the Angels are 1 1/2 games behind Texas in the AL West. The Angels and Dodgers have split the season series the past two years, but the difference this year could be pitching. The Dodgers’ staff ERA is more than a half-run better than the Angels’.

DH matters: Because of his balky knees, the Angels’ Hideki Matsui can’t play in the outfield on back-to-back days. But any playing time in left field will be an improvement over last season, when Matsui played solely at DH for the Yankees.
Matchup to watch: Jered Weaver vs. the Dodgers’ outfielders (Sunday). The righthander has a 2.94 ERA in six career starts against the Dodgers and a 0.55 ERA in three outings at Dodger Stadium. And he has had noteworthy success against Andre Ethier (2-for-14), Manny Ramirez (2-for-12) and Matt Kemp (2-for-7).
Interleague intrigue: The Dodgers’ .254 interleague batting average is the lowest in the majors.

Barry Zito faces his former team.
Barry Zito faces his former team.

A’s at Giants
San Francisco’s anemic offense managed only one run in a three-game at Oakland in May, and both teams rank in the bottom third of the majors in runs scored. Pitching will dominate, and the team can get deliver the key late-inning hit will have the edge.

DH matters: Although he has gone deep only twice this season, Jack Cust led the A’s in homers in each of the previous three seasons. And his 229 RBIs in that span are 51 more than any of his Oakland teammates. Without the DH, Cust is unlikely to play all three games.
Matchup to watch: Barry Zito vs. his former team (Saturday). In four career starts against the A’s, Zito is 0-4 with an 8.85 ERA. That includes a six-run pounding he took at Oakland last month.
Interleague intrigue: The A’s 107 saves during interleague play are the most among major league teams.

Blue Jays at Rockies After a surprisingly strong start, Toronto is showing signs of fading, having lost five of its past eight games (and losing a couple of games in the AL East standings in the process). Colorado, which went 8-2 from May 22 through June 1, also has slumped recently, having lost three of four against last-place Houston this week and six of its past eight games overall.

DH matters: Adam Lind, who hit .305 with 35 homers and 114 RBIs in 2009, is struggling this season (.213-8-31). He most likely will be the odd man out, though he could get at least one start in the outfield at the expense of Fred Lewis.
Matchup to watch: Blue Jays hitters vs. Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez (Saturday). The NL Cy Young award front-runner has allowed only two homers this season. The Blue Jays have hit more homers (98) than any other major league team.
Interleague intrigue: The Rockies’ 5.14 ERA during interleague play is the worst in the majors.

Chris Bahr is a senior editor for Sporting News. E-mail him at cbahr@sportingnews.com.

The second round of interleague play begins this afternoon when the Cubs host the White Sox in a series that certainly lacks some luster compared to previous seasons. Much of the intrigue will center around which veterans each team will try to deal before the July 31 nonwaiver trading deadline.

You can make a case that Cubs-White Sox actually is the least appealing matchup of the weekend. The only other interleague series that pits two sub-.500 teams (Nationals-Indians) will involve rookie phenom Stephen Strasburg.

Despite a couple of clunkers, however, there are some appealing pairings. A look at this weekend’s five interleague matchups between teams at .500 or better:

Ben Francisco figures to see time at DH.
Ben Francisco figures to see time at DH.

Phillies at Red Sox
Boston won two of three at Philadelphia during the first round of interleague play last month and leads the series 16-5 since 2004. As usual, both teams are in playoff contention this season, though neither would be in the postseason if the regular season ended today.

DH matters: With the DH in play at Fenway Park, Ben Francisco figures to benefit the most. Greg Dobbs, Ross Gload and Wilson Valdez also could get more playing time if the Phillies use the DH to rest Ryan Howard and Chase Utley.
Matchup to watch: Daisuke Matsuzaka vs. the Phillies’ hitters (Saturday). Philadelphia’s offense, which still isn’t up to par, nearly hit rock bottom when Dice-K held them without a hit for 7 2/3 innings on May 22 at Citizens Bank Park.
Interleague intrigue: The Red Sox’s .801 OPS during interleague play is the best in the majors since the interleague play began in 1997.

Braves at Twins
The NL East leaders will make their first visit to Target Field to take on the AL Central leaders. Both teams rank in the top 10 in ERA, but the pitchers will be put to the test with Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Troy Glaus and Jason Heyward, among others, ready to take their cuts.

DH matters: Nate McLouth is banged up after his collision with Jason Heyward in the outfield Wednesday, so he could handle the DH duties for Atlanta (if he doesn’t land on the disabled list). Either way, Eric Hinske should get more at-bats than usual. To reduce his wear and tear, Chipper Jones also could DH, with Omar Infante starting at third base.
Matchup to watch: Tim Hudson vs. Jim Thome (tonight). The Twins’ DH is 9-for-16 (.563) with four homers, four walks, nine RBIs and a 2.057 OPS against the Braves’ righthander in his career.
Interleague intrigue: The Twins’ 134 interleague wins are tied with the Yankees’ for the most all-time.

Angels at Dodgers One month ago, the Los Angeles teams were a combined six games under .500 and 8 1/2 games out of first place. The Dodgers will begin the freeway series with a one-game lead in the NL West, while the Angels are 1 1/2 games behind Texas in the AL West. The Angels and Dodgers have split the season series the past two years, but the difference this year could be pitching. The Dodgers’ staff ERA is more than a half-run better than the Angels’.

DH matters: Because of his balky knees, the Angels’ Hideki Matsui can’t play in the outfield on back-to-back days. But any playing time in left field will be an improvement over last season, when Matsui played solely at DH for the Yankees.
Matchup to watch: Jered Weaver vs. the Dodgers’ outfielders (Sunday). The righthander has a 2.94 ERA in six career starts against the Dodgers and a 0.55 ERA in three outings at Dodger Stadium. And he has had noteworthy success against Andre Ethier (2-for-14), Manny Ramirez (2-for-12) and Matt Kemp (2-for-7).
Interleague intrigue: The Dodgers’ .254 interleague batting average is the lowest in the majors.

Barry Zito faces his former team.
Barry Zito faces his former team.

A’s at Giants
San Francisco’s anemic offense managed only one run in a three-game at Oakland in May, and both teams rank in the bottom third of the majors in runs scored. Pitching will dominate, and the team can get deliver the key late-inning hit will have the edge.

DH matters: Although he has gone deep only twice this season, Jack Cust led the A’s in homers in each of the previous three seasons. And his 229 RBIs in that span are 51 more than any of his Oakland teammates. Without the DH, Cust is unlikely to play all three games.
Matchup to watch: Barry Zito vs. his former team (Saturday). In four career starts against the A’s, Zito is 0-4 with an 8.85 ERA. That includes a six-run pounding he took at Oakland last month.
Interleague intrigue: The A’s 107 saves during interleague play are the most among major league teams.

Blue Jays at Rockies After a surprisingly strong start, Toronto is showing signs of fading, having lost five of its past eight games (and losing a couple of games in the AL East standings in the process). Colorado, which went 8-2 from May 22 through June 1, also has slumped recently, having lost three of four against last-place Houston this week and six of its past eight games overall.

DH matters: Adam Lind, who hit .305 with 35 homers and 114 RBIs in 2009, is struggling this season (.213-8-31). He most likely will be the odd man out, though he could get at least one start in the outfield at the expense of Fred Lewis.
Matchup to watch: Blue Jays hitters vs. Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez (Saturday). The NL Cy Young award front-runner has allowed only two homers this season. The Blue Jays have hit more homers (98) than any other major league team.
Interleague intrigue: The Rockies’ 5.14 ERA during interleague play is the worst in the majors.

Chris Bahr is a senior editor for Sporting News. E-mail him at cbahr@sportingnews.com.

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