IT'S INTERLEAGUE time in the bigs, my favorite games of the baseball season.

I'd enjoy them even more if everyone played by American League rules.

Rather than deal in the abstract, I took a microscope to every National League matchup last week and asked: Would this game have benefited from a designated hitter? In almost every case, the answer was yes.

Here were some examples:

Dodgers 5, Mets 4. Top of the ninth Tuesday, the Mets have 4-5-6 facing Dodgers closer Takashi Saito in a one-run game.

Had Carlos Beltran, who was given the night off, been used as a DH, Saito would have faced David Wright, Moises Alou and Carlos Delgado to start the ninth. Instead, it was Alou-Delgado-Angel Pagan.

The missing bat was most felt when, with two on and two out, the Mets were at the No.8 spot in the order. In the DH lineup, that would have been Brian Schneider, a .300 hitter who, in fact, singled off Saito. Instead, it was wet-newspaper-swinging Luis Castillo, and he went down looking.

Conclusion: Now we see why some NL teams have gone to hitting guys like Castillo ninth. That's where they belong — and that's where they are in the AL.

Pirates 3, Giants 1. Having retired six consecutive hitters, Barry Zito was on a season-best roll as he walked off the mound at the end of the fifth inning Wednesday, trailing just 2-0.

With a DH, there's no doubt the winless lefty returns for the sixth. But in the NL, "strategy" dictates Zito be pulled for a pinch hitter, basically assuring he will not end his 0-for-the-season streak.

Dan Ortmeier doubled in the pinch-hit role, which makes you wonder: What if that hit had come out of the 6-hole as a DH, following Bengie Molina's single and Rich Aurilia's walk to open the second?

Conclusion: Zito, who deserved better, might be 1-6 today if he'd brought his old pal (the DH) with him from the AL.

Braves 5, Padres 4. Looking for a little more pop out of the second-base position Thursday, the Padres gave Callix Crabbe a shot. The move looked good for a while as Crabbe walked and scored in the first inning, helping San Diego get a jump on the Braves.

Alas, it soon became clear why Tad Iguchi plays second base most of the time for the Padres. He's more dependable defensively.

Crabbe made two errors, leading to three unearned runs and an eventual one-run defeat.

Conclusion: Defense is a vastly underrated area of the game affected by the DH. With one, you can get your best offensive and defensive players in the lineup at the same time.

Rockies 4, Padres 2. If you want to know why the Padres arguably are the worst team in baseball, study Friday's lineup. Had starting pitcher Jake Peavy done so before taking the mound, he'd have been mentally beaten before his first pitch was thrown.

The Padres' 5-6-7-8 hitters had batting averages of .111, .231, .205 and .204. By game's end, two of them had left for pinch hitters and the other two went a combined 0-for-6.

Peavy made his usual quality start, allowing three runs in six innings, but seemed to run out of gas in the sixth. Maybe that was because he'd had to take offensive matters into his own hands, hustling out a double and scoring his team's only run to that point on a subsequent hit.

Conclusion: He could have used a DH's (or at least a designated runner's) help.

Padres 6, Rockies 1. The Rockies made a lot of fans with their remarkable run to the World Series last year, so it was no surprise that many in the crowd of 28,624 Sunday in San Diego were there to see their new heroes.

Imagine then the disappointment when the best of the best, Matt Holliday, didn't play.

In the AL, Holliday "rests" as the DH and the fans get to see him do what he does best — hit four times.

Conclusion: In the NL, they should offer refunds. You're getting shortchanged in every game.

You do like the DH, don't you? E-mail Dave Del Grande at dave@bayareanewsgroup.com.