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Interleague Play delivers impressive numbers

Interleague Play delivers impressive numbers

It started with 14 of 15 games on a promising Friday night in May, drawing 453,311 fans for an average of 33,379 at Major League ballparks.

It ended with Mariano Rivera's cutter to Jamey Carroll that resulted in a grounder to Derek Jeter, a 6-4 force that completed the Yankees' comeback win over the Dodgers in front of a full house of 56,000 at Dodger Stadium.

The overall result was a 134-118 record for the American League -- and another annual surge in overall Major League Baseball attendance. Interleague Play 2010 drew 8,379,834 fans for an average of 33,253 per game. That's 17.8 percent higher than this season's current intraleague average of 28,233 per game.

Amid ongoing discussion about the future of Interleague Play, the fact remains that crowd numbers soar during this stretch. Since its inception in 1997, Interleague Play has drawn 12 percent more fans than intraleague games. Interleague Play has averaged 33,261 fans per game, compared with the intraleague average of 29,711 fans per game during the same span.

"I initially talked about eliminating it," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "Then you realize you can't. Put all the numbers together, and it draws people to the ballpark. If that's the case, I back off. I understand that if you're keeping up with supply and demand, bite your tongue."

"As long as I'm here, we will have Interleague Play," Commissioner Bud Selig said after an owners' meeting last year. "I love it."

This was the seventh straight season in which the AL has won the season series, extending its all-time Interleague lead to 1,808-1,652 (.523). AL clubs posted six of the top seven Interleague records this season. The AL collected a .269 batting average with 1,168 runs scored, 233 home runs and a 4.16 ERA, compared with the National League's .251 average, 1,098 runs, 242 homers and 4.37 ERA.

The White Sox compiled a Major League-leading 2.76 ERA and finished with the top Interleague record at 15-3 (.833), followed by the Rangers, who went 14-4 (.778), and then the Red Sox and Mets, both of whom went 13-5 (722). The White Sox and Rangers both had recent 11-game winning streaks, feasting on the other league's competition, and Interleague Play helped the Rangers to what now stands as their best 75-game record in club history.

Overall, AL West clubs went 42-30 (.583) in Interleague Play, with three of its four clubs playing over .500. You'll have to wait a day to see how they fare back in the intraleague world, though; each of those four clubs has Monday off.

The Yankees, who were 11-7 in Interleague Play, have baseball's best all-time Interleague record at 144-102 (.585), followed by the White Sox at 143-104 (.579). The Marlins, who went 7-8 in Interleague Play, still hold the NL's best all-time Interleague record at 127-107 (.543), followed by the Cardinals at 109-96 (.532).

The 2010 Interleague offensive leaders included: Josh Hamilton of the Rangers with a .472 batting average (minimum 50 at-bats) and 34 hits; Prince Fielder of the Brewers, Adam Jones of the Orioles and Mike Napoli of the Angels, all of whom hit seven homers; and David Wright of the Mets with 24 RBIs. Wright's total matched an NL record set by Florida's Hanley Ramirez in 2009 -- two shy of Frank Thomas' 2000 record set with the White Sox.

On the mound, White Sox pitchers led in three major pitching categories: Mark Buehrle (4-0) was the only pitcher to collect four victories; Jake Peavy compiled a 0.78 ERA in 23 innings over three games (minimum 18 innings pitched); and Bobby Jenks recorded eight saves. Jered Weaver of the Angels collected a Major League-best 37 strikeouts.

Interleague Play's all-time statistical leaders include Albert Pujols with a .347 batting average; Derek Jeter with 321 hits; Jim Thome with 57 homers; Alex Rodriguez with 174 RBIs; Buehrle and Jamie Moyer with 23 wins; David Wells with a 2.79 ERA; Randy Johnson with 309 strikeouts; and Rivera with 63 saves.

For Rivera, that was not the result of his final act in this Interleague season. He got his second win of the year after the Yankees rallied against Jonathan Broxton and then went ahead on Robinson Cano's two-run homer in the 10th.

Now it's all in the past, and the intraleague beat goes on. That means familiar matchups such as Dodgers at Giants, which starts today. The all-time series between the clubs is astonishingly close, with the Dodgers holding a 472-440 edge over the Giants since the teams moved to the West Coast. At AT&T Park, the Dodgers hold a 48-42 all-time edge.

Mark Newman is enterprise editor of MLB.com. Follow @MLB on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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