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Friday, June 13, 2014
Series preview: D-backs at Dodgers

By Mark Saxon

LOS ANGELES – The Dodgers played a couple of frustrating games to end their trip to Cincinnati. They bickered with an umpire while getting dominated by pitcher Johnny Cueto one day, then watched their injury-depleted lineup blow a chance to win against Alfredo Simon.

So, now, what do they have to look forward to, the comforts of home? Maybe, but their home has been as inviting as a patch of poison oak so far this season. The Dodgers, 13-19 in Chavez Ravine, have the second-worst home record in the National League and the only team with a worse record -- the Arizona Diamondbacks -- is away from home to play them.

So, yeah, the Dodgers would like to figure out why they’ve been so listless at Dodger Stadium, and they’d like to figure it out fast.

“We were talking about it here in batting practice the other day,” pitcher Zack Greinke said. “I don’t know. It doesn’t make sense. Usually, teams play better at home, and obviously we haven’t. I don’t know why, I don’t know how long it’s going to last, but it shouldn’t because it doesn’t make sense.”

What has kept this Dodgers season from being a total loss has been a 22-14 road record, second only to the Oakland A’s for best in the major leagues.

The team up first in this homestand is Arizona, which has been diligently trying to dig its way out of the massive hole it dug at the beginning of the season. The Diamondbacks have been slowly doing just that, winning 11 of their past 19 games heading into Thursday night’s game in Houston.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has a theory – and he doesn’t pretend it’s more than that – about why his team has performed better away from its fans than in front of them. Two renovations ago, the Dodgers poured $100 million into sprucing up Dodger Stadium. Part of the work involved gutting the old clubhouse, expanding it and building all sorts of enclaves where the players could find refuge. There is a trainer’s room, a meal room, a video room, a weight room and even a quiet room with big-screen TVs and massage tables, to just unwind.

Most days, when the media are allowed into the clubhouse, there are few, if any, players in sight. It’s hard to blame them. Mattingly thinks that, when the players get on the road and are forced into closer quarters, they talk more. They might even talk about baseball sometimes.

“You just don’t get that banter you get on the road,” Mattingly said.

So, if the Dodgers don’t reach the playoffs despite a $239 million payroll, maybe we can blame the lack of banter.