- Sean Newcomb will look to continue his marvelous May (and impressive splits with an extra day of rest) in his home state against the Red Sox.
- Meanwhile, Boston will try to keep dominating the National League in Interleague play.
- Red Sox fans can also look forward to the likely season debut of Dustin Pedroia, who has torched NL pitchers his whole career.
MLB first introduced Interleague play in 1997. Since then, the American League has absolutely dominated — winning more than 54% of meetings (1532-1298) over the last decade. The National League hasn’t had a single winning season against the AL since 2003.
If the NL finally wants to reverse that trend, it has a nice head start in 2018. So far this season, the NL owns a 41-29 (.586) record against the AL. Does this mean the NL is poised to flip the script? Not really. It mainly speaks to how top-heavy the American League is in 2018. There are some really bad teams in the AL. If you remove the combined 2-18 Interleague record of the White Sox, Tigers and Rays — the rest of the AL has actually gone 27-23 vs. the NL.
Let’s take a look at whether the NL can notch another Interleague win by analyzing the battle between the Braves and Red Sox — the only early game on a slow afternoon sports slate.
Atlanta Braves vs. Boston Red Sox -121 | O/U 10
Sean Newcomb (5-1, 2.39 ERA) vs. Drew Pomeranz (1-2, 5.97 ERA)
1:05 p.m. ET
Laser Show: Everyone in Boston is talking about Hanley Ramirez, who was designated for assignment on Friday. It made sense for two reasons: 1. It will save the Red Sox more than $20M next season and 2. Dustin Pedroia returned from the DL.
Pedey should make his season debut today against the Braves — fitting since the Red Sox second baseman has absolutely raked during interleague play in his career. In fact, he leads all current hitters (min. 500 at-bats) with a .333 lifetime Interleague average — trailing only Mike Piazza (.340) for highest all-time. — Stuckey
Interleague Kings: The Red Sox as a whole have also dominated the NL since the inception of Interleague play. With an all-time record of 230-156 vs. the opposing league, Boston owns a .596 winning percentage — the highest of any MLB team. After Friday’s win over the Braves, the Sox are now 14-1 in their last 15 Interleague games. They’ve also won 24 of their last 27 vs. the NL at Fenway. That’s strong. — Stuckey
Sean New Who? If I went up and asked 100 people at Fenway Park about Sean Newcomb, I imagine 80 or so would say, “Who?” And I imagine 10 of the 20 who did would know him only because he grew up in Brockton, Massachusetts.
That’s not because Sox fans aren’t knowledgeable, because we are, but rather because Newcomb is still an under-the-radar type of guy, especially for folks who don’t bet or play DFS on a nightly basis. However, I don’t expect Newcomb to remain a relative unknown for too much longer.
The 24-year-old former first-round pick has had a very successful start to the season, with an ERA south of 2.50 and a K/9 a hair shy of 10. However, he has benefited from good fortune with batted balls this year. His .256 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls In Play) and 6.7% HR/FB rate — both of which rank in the top 10 among qualified pitchers — are unsustainably low for a pitcher of his caliber. While I think Newcomb will eventually become a household name, he won’t keep up his current pace all season. — Mark Gallant
Newcomb’s numbers are even more impressive when you consider that he sat at 0-1 with a 10.38 ERA after his first start of the season. He hasn’t lost a start since and has allowed only one run in four May starts. He has a 4-0 record in those starts, pitching a total of 25.0 innings. However, I should note he didn’t face the stiffest competition, as he faced the Mets, Rays and Marlins twice.
Still, Braves fans should stay excited about Newcomb, who has certainly improved his control in 2018. He has walked more than a batter less per 9.0 innings than he did last season.
He also seems to thrive with an extra day of rest between starts, which the Braves gave him again ahead of this game. In his seven starts with an extra day of rest this season, Newcomb is 4-0 with a 1.91 ERA. Small sample size, but the Braves obviously keep doing it for a reason. — Stuckey
Southpaw Splits: I like this matchup of two southpaw starters for Atlanta, as they hit lefties significantly better than the Sox. Only a few of Boston’s regulars have performed above average vs. left-handed pitching so far this season.
- Mookie Betts: 246 wRC+
- Hanley Ramirez: 132 wRC+…wait, nevermind
- J.D. Martinez: 122 wRC+
- Xander Bogaerts: 105 wRC+
Through Friday, their team wRC+ of 77 against southpaws ranks 28th, while Atlanta’s 129 tops the majors. — Mark Gallant
As Mark mentioned, the Red Sox have struggled against left-handed pitching this season. Look no further than their 5-6 record vs. lefty starters — a massive difference from their insane 30-10 record vs. righties.
On the other hand, even after their loss on Friday night, the Braves own a solid 9-4 record vs. lefties. They rank either first or second in MLB in average, slugging percentage and on-base percentage. While the Braves lead MLB with a .862 OPS (On-base Plus Slugging percentage) vs. southpaws, the Red Sox rank third from the bottom with a significantly lower .662 OPS. — Stuckey
Did You Know? In series openers this season, Atlanta has a 9-8 record, squeaking out a profit of 3.6 units for bettors. That includes another opening-series loss on Friday in Boston. While the Braves have performed at a pretty average level in series openers, they’ve excelled thereafter. They own an impressive 20-12 record in that spot — including 12-6 on the road and 10 of their last 12 — netting bettors 8.6 units. That makes them the most profitable team in baseball after Game 1. Random or meaningful? Probably the former, but worth keeping an eye on. — Evan Abrams
All stats via Baseball Reference, MLB.com and FanGraphs