Series preview: Dodgers at Royals

June, 23, 2014
Jun 23
6:00
AM PT
Zack GreinkeGetty ImagesOn Monday, Dodgers starter Zack Greinke returns to Kauffman Stadium, where he began his career with the Royals at age 20.
KANSAS CITY -- When the Los Angeles Dodgers play three games against the Kansas City Royals starting Monday night, it will be a momentous occasion.

It’s not that the series has much sex appeal. The teams haven’t played each other in nine years. And in six meetings with the Royals starting in 2003, the Dodgers are 2-4. The rest of the country doesn’t figure to be glued to another one of those bizarre interleague matchups.

But what is at stake for both sides is momentum. The Royals can’t seem to keep track of theirs. After running off a 10-game winning streak and passing the Detroit Tigers for first place in the American League East, they got swept by the Seattle Mariners over the weekend and now have lost four in a row.

And while the Dodgers generally feel good about their direction -- 11-5 since June 4 -- it’s also still tenuous. At some point, they’d like to polish off their first four-game winning streak of the season.

Both squads are chasing quality first-place teams in their divisions.

If nothing else, the Dodgers’ second road interleague series affords them the chance to get some of their players off their feet. L.A. manager Don Mattingly said he will use the designated hitter spot in the three games to give Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig -- who lead the Dodgers in games played -- a game off from fielding duties in each of the games.

One theory for why National League teams tend to fare poorly in interleague play is that they rarely have a DH-quality bat on their bench.

The Dodgers’ lineup might be at a disadvantage when Ramirez is at DH because Miguel Rojas will be the extra bat inserted in place of the pitcher. Otherwise, they should be fine. Scott Van Slyke, whose .997 OPS is better than Puig’s, is the backup both in right field and at first base.

Zack Greinke (9-3, 2.57 ERA) pitches Monday night for the Dodgers, the team that signed him to a six-year, $147 million contract two Decembers ago. But he’ll be working on the Kauffman Stadium mound where he began his career at the age of 20. Pitching for the Royals in the first six years of his major league career, Greinke went 60-67 with a 3.82 ERA and the 2009 Cy Young award. He also missed a season with social anxiety disorder.

“There might be a little more added intensity," Royals designated hitter Billy Butler told reporters with the team. "People are going to come out and see him. He pitched here and won a Cy Young here. It'd be nice to get a win off him. We'll bring our A game. We'll have to.”

Mark Saxon

ESPNLosAngeles.com
Mark Saxon is a staff writer for ESPNLosAngeles.com. He spent six years at the Orange County Register, and began his career at the Oakland Tribune, where he started an 11-year journey covering Major League Baseball. He has also covered colleges, including USC football and UCLA basketball.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Yasiel Puig
BA HR RBI R
.296 16 69 92
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Gonzalez 27
RBIA. Gonzalez 116
RY. Puig 92
OPSY. Puig .863
WC. Kershaw 21
ERAC. Kershaw 1.77
SOC. Kershaw 239