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by Scott Spreitzer - 05/15/2006
Interleague play, like it or not, begins this week. The first set of rivalry games will go this upcoming weekend!
The majority of interleague games will come in a couple of weeks after this early appetizer. But you should begin your preparations now so you'll be ready for this baseball fan's dream weekend of rivalry action and the remainder of the 2006 NL/AL showdowns.
The first thing we need to do is to find all the lefthanders who are pitching well. One of the biggest edges you can have in interleague play is to back a left-handed starter that opposing hitters have rarely seen. You probably know that 'first-look' lefties have good success for years, just because it takes hitters a little more time to adjust to their delivery. Almost all southpaws have something about their delivery that throws hitters off at first. If an offense runs into a hot lefty they've never faced, or rarely faced, they'll be at a disadvantage.
Don't wait until Thursday night to do this. Comb the full season stats NOW, then watch how the hottest lefties do in their start prior to the showdown games. This will help you narrow down your list of best investments to the guys showing the best form.
Secondly, run through the weekend schedules to see which series are going to be virtual city or state championships. Well, at least the first round of the city or state championships because there will be return engagements later in the season. Teams involved in those games may very well get caught looking ahead in their Wednesday and Thursday games THIS week.
I'll save you some time. Here's a list of the most attractive matchups:
NEW YORK YANKEES AT NEW YORK METS: You know the Mets would love nothing better than to embarrass George Steinbrenner in front of the New York media.
CHICAGO CUBS AT CHICAGO WHITE SOX: This series has become even more important locally since the White Sox won the World Championship that the Cubs have dreamed for almost a century of winning.
LOS ANGELES ANGELS AT LOS ANGELES DODGERS: I still can't believe that the Angels changed home cities without moving. Neither can the Dodgers' brass.
TEXAS AT HOUSTON: The Rangers have been near the top of the AL West all year, and they'd like to show that it's their turn to make postseason headlines in the Lone Star State.
BALTIMORE AT WASHINGTON: The Nationals used to be a Canadian team playing Toronto every year. Now they've got a new local rival that's furious they moved into town. Things here could get very interesting.
Other possibilities include San Francisco/Oakland, Florida/Tampa Bay, and St. Louis/Kansas City (at least the Royals should be getting up for that one!).
Focus NOW on where the teams in those marquee matchups are playing Wednesday and Thursday. Then look to catch many of them looking ahead to the games that will really get their juices flowing.
Following these guidelines will help you find some great money-making opportunities with those look-ahead spots leading up to the weekend. We'll then put you on some strong lefthanders over the weekend in situations where they're likely to thrive.
Other tips to consider once those rivalry matchups have started:
*Nobody wants to get embarrassed in a rivalry series, so don't be surprised if the loser of the previous game brings a peak effort the next day.
*Some pitchers have established superiority over their rivals the past several years. Look for pitchers who have good career stats against the weekend team and back them with confidence to continue their dominance.
*If you see that a few of the rivalry games become particularly heated over the weekend, look for letdown spots the following Monday. How do you get up for a generic regular season game right after a huge weekend that had all the fans in your part of the country watching? This three-day weekend works out more like a 7-day weekend in terms of the impact that the most awaited matchups have on the schedule.
Handicappers love interleague play because it put the oddsmakers on their heels, posting a few guesses on the board and hoping for the best. Analysts who really know baseball have taken advantage of this vulnerability every year since it began. Make sure you do so this coming week and all through the summer of 2006!