Cards set for Interleague Play after wait

Cards set for Interleague Play after wait

Cards set for Interleague Play after wait
ST. LOUIS -- One of only two clubs not to begin Interleague Play last month, the Cardinals will kick off a 15-game stretch of games against the American League beginning on Friday.

The Cards drew all AL Central opponents this season, and they will play three of their five series at home. That includes three-game series against the Indians, White Sox and Royals during this upcoming homestand. The team will then travel to Detroit for a series against the defending AL Central champs, before wrapping up Interleague Play in Kansas City.

As natural rivals, the Cardinals and Royals have played a home-and-home series in five of the past six seasons. Only the Orioles have a lower winning percentage against National League teams than does Kansas City since the inception of Interleague Play back in 1997.

The schedule certainly seems favorable to the Cards, who enter the day trailing division-leader Cincinnati by two games. The Redbirds avoid playing the AL's best division (the East) as well as the league's top team (the Rangers) this summer.

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Their toughest two opponents -- based on records -- will come first. The Indians currently sit in second place in the AL Central and are 14-10 on the road this year. Cleveland's three-game series at Busch Stadium will be followed by a visit from the first-place White Sox, who have leapfrogged the Indians in the division with their recent string of 15 wins in 19 games.

The underachieving Tigers -- a team that most predicted would coast to another division title -- will be an opponent later this month, in between series against the Royals, who will take the field Friday sitting seven games under .500.

The Cardinals will have to utilize a designated hitter for just six of these 15 Interleague games, and that won't even be needed until June 19. By then, Matt Carpenter and Skip Schumaker may be off the disabled list, which would increase the club's options for a DH. Manager Mike Matheny could also use the DH option to get Matt Adams, Carlos Beltran and Allen Craig in the same lineup without having to move Beltran out of center field.

Last year: Though the Cardinals lost five of their first nine Interleague games last year, the club did rebound to finish with a winning record (8-7) against the AL. The Cards claimed two series wins over the Royals, as well as a sweep of the Orioles in Baltimore.

All-time: With a 115-105 Interleague record, the Cardinals opened the season as one of just five NL clubs to have a winning record against the AL. The club's .523 winning percentage ranks third in the NL behind just Atlanta and Miami.

vs. Indians, June 8-10: The Cardinals and Indians have played six series since series since Interleague Play began in 1997, and the Tribe has won them all. St. Louis, which has a 5-12 record against the Indians, last played Cleveland in 2009. The Tribe took two out of three in that series.

vs. White Sox, June 12-14: These two teams have played 18 times before, with the Cardinals winning 10 of those games. However, after meeting in each of the first five seasons of Interleague Play, the Cards and White Sox have opposed each other in just one series since '01. That came in 2006, when the White Sox scored 34 runs in a three-game sweep of St. Louis.

vs. Royals, June 15-17: This will be the 16th straight season that the Cardinals and Royals -- designated as natural rivals -- will see each other during the season. The I-70 series will begin in St. Louis, where the Cards own a 14-13 record over the Royals.

at Tigers, June 19-21: For the first time since 2008, the Cardinals will play a series at Comerica Park. The Cards are 9-17 against the Tigers all-time, with only four of those wins coming on the road. The lone series St. Louis won in Detroit came in 1999.

at Royals, June 22-24: The Cardinals have won eight of the last 11 and 19 of their last 26 at Kauffman Stadium, where St. Louis will wrap up Interleague Play this summer. But while the Cards have won eight of the last 10 series in Kansas City, they have only outscored the Royals, 249-225, during the 39 games played there.

• Players to Watch

Matt Holliday, LF (.313, 18 HRs, 64 RBIs): Against the AL Central, Holliday has a .342 career batting average.

Adam Wainwright, RHP (3-1, 3.50 ERA): The veteran righty has limited AL opponents to .254 batting average.

Kyle Lohse, RHP (7-15, 5.78 ERA): That Interleague ERA is a more respectable 4.30 during his time with St. Louis.

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.