When Major League Baseball decided to match the American and National Leagues with interleague play in 1997, three things were supposed to happen.
First, baseball fans would love it - seeing teams that never would have met, now getting together in meaningful regular season games. On that count, they were right and it appears interleague is here to stay.
Second, the NL clubs would compete with the AL because they could add another hitter into their lineup in the American League stadiums, and that would give their offenses a huge boost - wrong!
Third, the AL clubs would suffer by losing their designated hitter in the NL parks, and their poor pitchers would have to pick up bats and hit, another huge advantage for the National League - wrong!
It just hasn’t worked out that way for these games, now in their fourteenth year. American League DHs are programmed to hit that way, and NL hitters who become DHs just don’t have that knack for sitting around between at-bats and doing damage when they get up there.
On the Nats’ 1-5 road trip to Cleveland and Detroit, here’s how their Designated Hitters fared:
Friday at Cleveland, Josh Willingham went 0-4 with 2 strikeouts, Nationals lost 7-2
Saturday, Willie Harris went 0-3 with 2 strikeouts, Nationals lost 7-1
Sunday, Ryan Zimmerman went 1-5 with a single and strikeout, Nationals won 9-4
Tuesday at Detroit, Adam Dunn went 0-3 with an intentional walk and 3 strikeouts, Nationals lost 7-4
Wednesday, Mike Morse went 2-3 with 2 singles, Nationals lost 8-3
Thursday, Cristian Guzman went 2-4 with 2 singles, an RBI and 2 strikeouts, Nationals lost 8-3
For the trip, Washington DHs went 5-22 with 1 RBI and 10 strikeouts. These are quality hitters, but evidently not programmed to be one-dimensional, one-way players. The numbers don’t lie.
Going into Thursday’s finale at Comerica Park, the AL had a 61-55 advantage in wins this season, closer than usual. They were out-hitting the NL .274 to .253, and their ERA was lower, 4.33 to 4.62.
The National League had hit more home runs, 127 to 112, but for the DHs, it was no contest. Check this out: American League: .354
National League: .202
The Nationals were outscored in Cleveland 17-12 and in Detroit 23-10. That’s a frightening 40 runs given up in six games. In those games the Nats scored 22 runs, enough to win two, maybe three, and on Thursday, Washington pitchers gave up 19 hits for a series total of 38 and a road trip total of 63, more than 10 per game!
With Stephen Strasburg pitching again Friday night, it’ll be interesting to see how he fares against a potent White Sox lineup after giving the Indians just 1 run on 2 hits last Sunday - the only good pitching performance of the entire trip by a starter.
“There’s no place like home” may be a good line from a famous movie, but for the National League in interleague play, it’s hardly a safe place to pitch against these made-for-offense American League teams.
Of course, the Nats won 2 of 3 at Yankee Stadium last year, so if you can figure this whole thing out, let me know. I’m always glad to get your thoughts!