The NL East and AL East divisions could not be more different entering the 2020 season.
On the surface, both look like deep and competitive divisions. But while the AL East boasts one of the league’s top superpowers in the New York Yankees along with last year’s AL Wild Card Game-winning Tampa Bay Rays, they also have the retooling Boston Red Sox, still-young Toronto Blue Jays and basement-dwelling Baltimore Orioles.
Meanwhile, the NL East has four teams focused on making the playoffs in 2020. The reigning World Series champion Nationals, back-to-back division champion Atlanta Braves, up-and-coming Philadelphia Phillies and promising-if-healthy New York Mets are all built to win now, setting the stage for a 60-game dogfight of a race for the NL East crown.
That makes for a tough slate in front of AL East teams, who will face an interleague schedule that features a division full of some of the best rotations in baseball.
“When you have to run through the Mets’ pitching, you have to run through the Nationals’ pitching and the Braves’ pitching and [Aaron] Nola and when you look at [Zack] Wheeler and some of the [Phillies’] guys, the American League East in interleague play does not get a great draw because they’re going to run into some buzz saw arms when they play those series,” former Mets GM and current MLB Network Radio analyst Steve Phillips said on Tuesday’s episode of the Nationals Talk podcast.
Even though teams will only play one series against each of their interleague opponents, the shorter season makes every game all the more important.
“Normally, interleague play is an eighth of the major-league season,” Phillips said. “That’s 20 games of 162. Now it’s 20 out of 60, so a third of the season, which is a lot especially when you’re battling within your division. So those matchups are going to be critical.”
The Nationals have the easiest schedule of interleague games between the two divisions since they will play the Orioles six times as opposed to the three- and four-game series they’ll have with the other four AL East teams. While their own division will make for a tough road to the playoffs, inter-divisional games have always been considered more difficult than others regardless of the talent on either side due to the number of times the teams have to face each other.
But if any division is going to need to be prepared for a difficult interleague slate, it’s the AL East. Their National League counterparts will present few easy victories, putting the pressure on the Yankees, Rays and any other AL East teams hoping to make the playoffs.
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