Atlanta's Chipper Jones isn't pleased with the current interleague format, but he and the Braves would no doubt love to make a statement against the best team in baseball.
The Braves will look to bounce back from a frustrating series as they open their three-game interleague series with the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Friday.
Baseball's current interleague system requires teams to play regional rivals in home-and-home series, meaning the Braves (25-16) play six games against the AL East-leading Red Sox (28-12). As a result, teams no longer play exclusively against one division, which could cause differences in the strength of potential opponents.
"Is it fun? Yeah. It's fun playing in new cities. It's fun playing in front of new crowds, it's fun playing new teams," Jones said. "What's not fun is when they're all contenders and your competition doesn't have to play the same competition you do."
In addition to the Red Sox, the Braves also play AL Central squads Cleveland, Detroit and Minnesota -- currently first, second and fourth, respectively, in their division.
"We, without a doubt, have the toughest schedule in baseball, bar none," Jones said. "You don't play in our division and play the interleague schedule we play and not say we don't have the toughest schedule."
The Braves are 91-75 since interleague play started in 1997, the sixth-best record in the majors. However, they were swept in a three-game series against the Red Sox last year and have lost four in a row to them.
Atlanta also has dropped four of its last five -- including three of four to Washington, which owns the NL's worst record. Jones hit a two-run homer in Thursday's 4-3 loss to the Nationals, but Atlanta hit just .218 during the series.
"It's a good time to start playing better. Whenever we've needed to up our level of play, we've been able to do that," Jones said. "Unfortunately, the fact that we lower our level of play against certain teams worries me."
The Red Sox, meanwhile, took three of four from Detroit and swept a doubleheader on Thursday. Julian Tavarez pitched seven strong innings to win 2-1 in the first game, while Eric Hinske hit a go-ahead homer in the nightcap, a 4-2 victory.
Boston, which moved 9 1/2 games ahead of the second-place New York Yankees, is tied with Cleveland for the 10th-best interleague record at 93-82.
"When you have a team this deep, you can do some pretty special things," said Curt Schilling, who went six innings without receiving a decision in the second game. "Today, with Julian in the first game and the bullpen, and tonight with Hinske taking the team by the horns."
Hinske started both games in place of right fielder J.D. Drew, who bruised his back in Tuesday's 7-2 defeat.
Devern Hansack (0-0, 13.50 ERA) will be recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket to start Sunday's opener for Boston in place of Josh Beckett, who will go on the disabled list with a torn flap of skin on the middle finger of his pitching finger that hasn't completely healed.
"We included him in this decision a lot," manager Terry Francona said of Beckett, whose seven wins lead the majors. "He was very thoughtful and conscientious in what he was saying to us and we talked to him for a long time about it."
Hansack made his only appearance this season out of the bullpen, allowing one run and recording two outs in Boston's 9-2 win at Toronto on May 8. He made two starts last season, going 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA.
Anthony Lerew (0-1, 6.52) is scheduled to make the start for Atlanta after giving up five runs and three walks in 3 2-3 innings of Sunday's 13-2 loss at Pittsburgh. The 24-year-old right-hander made the first start of his career on May 8, allowing two runs in six innings of Atlanta's 3-2 win over San Diego.
Lerew, who made eight career relief appearances before this season, has never faced Boston.