Interleague play may be exciting for the fans, but it causes some alterations and uneasiness for players, especially this early in the season. However, some players embrace National League versus American League match-ups in small doses because it mixes the schedule up a bit and adds a little flavor. This season, with the Astros moving to the American League and the formation of three five-team divisions in each league, there’s an interleague game every day.
The Nationals would appear to have a slight advantage at least in the first game of a three-game series against the Chicago White Sox at Nationals Park because White Sox big power bat and designated hitter Adam Dunn will not start against Gio Gonzalez. Also, Jake Peavy has to hit, a responsibility he is not accustomed to in the American League.
“It would be more difficult if we were in an American League ballpark,” said Nationals manager Davey Johnson. “We got guys that can hit. It makes it tougher on them with Adam Dunn not in their lineup. He is a big guy in their lineup. Hopefully, when he comes up it is late in the ballgame and we got a lead, nobody on.”
Johnson prefers the rules in the senior circuit because of the late-inning chess match that occurs when he has to decide where to substitute for the starting pitcher in the batting order.
“I just think there is more strategy in the National League game around the pitcher, when you have to take him out,” Johnson reasoned. “You got to pinch-hit for him when you are behind in a game after he pitched well for five innings.
“I love managing in the American League. You just have to read the pitcher. (But) it is more interesting and thought provoking in the National League. The pitcher hitting could be throwing a two-hitter and be down one-nothing with the bases loaded in the sixth inning. You best strike then. So, it is a lot different.”
Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said he likes interleague play every once in a while. He doesn’t believe it is too early to play these game in the regular season.
“It is a little different, but I like it better,” Zimmerman said. “It is kind of nice to have them sprinkled in there. It is a tricky little thing. To have one every now and then compared to a whole week, and then you have a little break, and then another whole week. I guess it is a little bit easier to handle.”
And is DH better or a pitcher hitting the more pure game?
“If it comes down to what a pitcher does at the plate, it is not a great game anyway,” Zimmerman said.
So does that mean you are DH guy, right?
“No, because then the games are about 45 minutes longer,” he added.
So what does a former National League first baseman and current American League designated hitter think of the pitcher batting/designated hitter debate?
“I do have an opinion,” said Dunn. “But I would like to keep it to myself because I like my job. It is tough. I see both sides of the argument. It has been around forever. Now the interleague is kind of a year-round deal.”