Nats hoping for better Interleague Play results

Nats hoping for better Interleague Play results

Nats hoping for better Interleague Play results
NEW YORK -- Interleague Play starts Friday, with the Nationals facing the Orioles in the Battle of the Beltways at Camden Yards.

Washington hopes to have a better showing after going 5-13 against American League teams last year. It didn't help that the team had below-average pitching and defense. This year should be a different story. The Nationals rank seventh in the National League in pitching and ninth in defense.

When the Nationals play the Orioles in Baltimore, look for manager Jim Riggleman to use Matt Stairs and Michael Morse as the designated hitters. Stairs will face right-handers, while Morse will face lefties.

Riggleman was considering using Adam LaRoche as the Nats' DH in Baltimore because of the first baseman's sore left shoulder, but LaRoche will be able to play in the field.

Next month, the Nationals will play two Interleague series at Nationals Park, one against the Orioles and another against the Mariners, before going on the road to play the White Sox and Angels. The Nationals are a combined 23-22 against the four teams since moving to D.C. after the 2004 season.

"I like Interleague Play," said Nationals third baseman Jerry Hairston Jr., who started his career with the Orioles. "It definitely breaks up the monotony of a long season. It gives the fans an opportunity to see different teams they don't normally see at their ballpark, or on the road."

Last year: The Nationals would like to forget the 2010 slate of Interleague Play, as they went 5-13 against American League opponents. They ended up getting swept by the Tigers and Orioles on the road, and the White Sox at Nationals Park.

All-time: The Nationals/Expos have had mixed results during Interleague Play, going 117-130. Their best year was in 1997, going 12-3. That year, the Expos swept the Red Sox and Tigers. Since they've been in Washington, the Nationals' best season was in 2005, when they went 12-6. They swept the Athletics and the Mariners that year.

Orioles, May 20-22; June 17-19: This will be the sixth annual Battle of the Beltways, with Washington going 14-16 in those games. The Nationals hope to have better pitching and defense, which did them in last year.

Mariners, June 21-23: The last time these two teams met was in 2008, with the Nationals sweeping the Mariners in Seattle. That year, manager Jim Riggleman was the bench coach of the Mariners before taking over as the skipper later in the year.

White Sox, June 24-26: The series will be known as the Nationals vs. Adam Dunn. The White Sox slugger played for the Nationals in 2009 and 2010 before signing with Chicago this past offseason. During his two years with Washington, Dunn hit .264 with 78 home runs and 208 RBIs.

Angels, June 27-29: The Angels took two out of three games in 2008 at Nationals Park. But the Nationals are a different team. John Lannan is the only member of the current Nationals club who is still on the roster. Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman was on the disabled list because of a shoulder injury.

Players to watch
Matt Stairs, 1B (.295, 32 HR, 107 RBI in Interleague Play): The Nationals are hoping he can provide power at the DH spot. During his career against the Orioles, Stairs has 19 home runs.

Jayson Werth, RF (.277, 22 HR 55 RBI): In the past two years, Werth has been almost unstoppable against American League pitching, hitting .320 with 12 home runs 29 RBIs.

Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B (.258, 4 HR 26 RBI): He will see action because of the injury to Zimmerman. He will play the Orioles, the team that gave him his first break in the big leagues.

Tyler Clippard, RHP (2-2, 6.44 ERA in Interleague Play): Clippard wants to improve from last year's showing, when opposing American League hitters had a .333 batting average against the right-hander.

Bill Ladson is a reporter for and writes an MLBlog, All Nats All the time He also could be found on Twitter @WashingNats. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.