LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers bumped off the New York Yankees as the highest-paid team in the majors this season and will likely spend more money over the remaining months than any franchise in the history of the league.
They’re on track to establish another mark as they prepare to host the Philadelphia Phillies in the second game of their four-game series Tuesday night, one they’d rather not add to the ledger.
One-eighth of the way through this season, the Dodgers have struck out a major-league leading 187 times, or an average of 9.35 times per nine innings. Projected over a 162-game regular season, Los Angeles is on pace with the National League strikeout record of 1,529, established by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2010, a team that finished 65-97.
And the Dodgers don’t seem to be coming up with any remedies.
They struck 11 more times in Monday’s 7-0 loss to the Phillies, the third time in the last four games they’ve taken at least 11 slow walks back to the dugout, and tonight will face savvy right-hander A.J. Burnett, who fanned nine Dodgers in 5 1/3 innings of a 1-0 loss last season while pitching for the Pittsburgh Pirates on Opening Day at Dodger Stadium. Burnett also brings a major-league leading 16 walks into this game, so plate discipline will be key.
The increase in strikeouts is a major change from last season, when only six teams were tougher to strike out than the Dodgers, including just two in the NL.
Arizona left-hander Wade Miley isn’t considered a strikeout pitcher by any means, but he has combined to fan 20 Dodgers in three starts covering 16 innings this season. Trevor Cahill, banished to the Arizona bullpen after his 0-4 start, has still managed to strike out 14 Dodgers in 12 innings.
Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, trying to regain his stroke after two injury-plagued seasons followed his near-Triple Crown campaign of 2011, has struck out 17 times in 54 plate appearances and patience may be winding thin with manager Don Mattingly, as the Dodgers are already overloaded with skilled outfielders.
The trickle-down effect has left the Dodgers 25th in the majors in both hitting (.236) and on-base percentage (.303), and their batting average dips to .209 after the sixth inning. They’re three games ahead of their 20-game record last spring, but their 12-8 mark is also a bit misleading, as seven of those wins have come against the Diamondbacks, owners of the worst record in baseball.