When the Dodgers and Angels played their inter-league series May 18-20 in Anaheim, it was the first time in 11 years they met while both were in first place.
The Angels were vastly superior in sweeping the three games and the Dodgers’ weaknesses – poor clutch hitting and defensive shortcomings – were exposed.
However, it remains to be seen if that will be the case as the season goes along.
Even after the losses the Dodgers remained in first place, ahead of the Padres and Diamondbacks.
Both teams have quality pitching, including outstanding bullpens. The Dodger relievers have been so effective in the first two months of the season the team is 20-0 when leading after seven innings.
It is obvious, however, the Dodgers need to hit better with men on base and plug defensive gaps.
Most noticeably, they have a problem at third base, where Wilson Betemit made two errors in the 4-1 loss Sunday.
Betemit has also struggled offensively aside from three pinch-hit homers and seems best suited for pinch-hitting duty instead of playing in the field.
The Dodgers have a chance in most games because their starting pitchers keep them close. But they lead the National League in stranding baserunners and have shown very little power.
All three games against the Angels were similar. The Dodgers couldn’t get baserunners home and the Angels took advantage of their opportunities. When the Angels took leads into the late innings they were in great shape because their two top relievers, Scott Shields and Francisco Rodriguez, are among baseball’s best.
The Dodgers have a 1-20 record in their last 21 games in American League parks. Second baseman Jeff Kent blames it on a lack of motivation.
“It’s hard to get pumped up for these games,” he said. “You don’t know who these guys are and there’s no rhythm to the games.”
Kent says baseball officials should be more concerned with the tradition of the sport and claims inter-league play was brought in for financial reasons.
If that’s the case, baseball officials made a wise decision. All three weekend games brought record crowds to Angel Stadium and there was considerable interest in other inter-league series’, including Cubs-White Sox, A’s-Giants and Yankees-Mets.
In a Channel 9 television poll, 72 percent of fans said they favor keeping inter-league play every season.
The Dodgers will see the Angels again in a three-game series at Dodger Stadium June 15-17.
Although Kent blamed the schedule-makers, not all his teammates agreed. Centerfielder Juan Pierre blamed poor execution, himself included.
The speedy Pierre, who has the job of getting on base to set up innings, went 0-for-5 in Friday’s game, hitting a fly ball every time.
“I told [Manager] Grady Little that if I ever did that again I’d owe him 20 pushups,” said Pierre. The Dodgers were happy to return home beginning Monday. After playing the Brewers in three games they’ll have Thursday off and will host the Cubs in three games May 25-27.