Coming off a sloppy series against the San Diego Padres, who came into Dodger Stadium at 2-10 and left at 5-10, the Dodgers will try to get well this weekend in Baltimore. It’s not exactly an ideal refuge.
Not that Camden Yards holds bad memories for the Dodgers -- they haven’t played there in 11 years -- but playing on the road in American League cities rarely goes well. Lucky for them, it’s just a teaser of the interleague schedule to come. Because each league now has 15 teams, the MLB schedule demands one interleague series at all times.
The Dodgers have won just four of their last 18 interleague series on the road. The last time they won one, last season in Seattle, they got no-hit by six pitchers in the game they lost. Since Opening Day of 2005, the Dodgers are 17-49 at American League Stadiums, the second-worst mark in the majors for teams traveling for interleague play.
Not a pretty picture.
Is it an anomaly or a trend? The readiest explanation, of course, is the designated hitter -- or lack therof. As Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said when I asked him about it, American League teams usually have “some big, hairy guy” -- ie., a power hitter -- they can use at designated hitter or to break open a game with a home run late. Nolan Reimold, Baltimore's DH, certainly is big -- 6-foot-4, 215 pounds.
Here are Mattingly’s possibilities for an extra bat this weekend (note: He may use the DH to rest his regulars, which would still insert one of the following hitters into his lineup somewhere) with lifetime home runs:
Ramon Hernandez 166
Juan Uribe 159
Nick Punto 15
Uribe and Hernandez, of course, are well past their hitting primes. Since 2006, Hernandez's slugging percentage is .399. Dodger fans are well aware that Uribe hasn't reached double digit home runs since he left San Francisco after the 2010 season. The rest of Mattingly’s options offer, essentially, no power.
So, the Dodgers will try to pitch and play defense this weekend to win some games. Ask most pitchers how they like to pitch at Camden Yards. They'd be better served to snap out of their early-season hitting woes.