LOS ANGELES -- Before Saturday afternoon’s eventual 6-2 win over the San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was asked if there was a sense of urgency to kick things into a higher gear.
After all, the team was just one game above .500 and sitting in third place of a National League West division that they were considered the odds-on favorite to win
"I think there should be a sense of urgency every day, to be honest with you," the skipper said. "I think that good teams are going to come to play every day. I’ve said it probably a thousand times that anything that’s happened behind us right now, there’s just not a damn thing we can do about it.
"To me, you always look at it like today could be the start of us winning 10 in a row. Or today could be the start of us being hot, playing .700 baseball for the next two months.”
There’s obviously a lot of baseball left to be played this season, which is a positive for a team falling behind in the pursuit of its high goals. On the flip side, when you’re scuffling, 100-plus games could just as easily feel like a threat.
And for whatever reason, whether the Australian pilgrimage, bizarre weather delays, four outfielders who have struggled to find an offensive rhythm while platooning, widespread poor defense, injuries or just good, old-fashioned underachievement, the Dodgers haven’t of late resembled a squad pegged as a legit World Series contender.
It may be just early May, but the time has come for the Dodgers to begin the process of proving themselves.
The first step was simply to break a three-game losing streak, a challenge met against a high-end divisional rival. But perhaps truly significant was the Dodgers pulling out a win on Saturday after five innings spent flailing from behind.
Giants starter Matt Cain was barely touched and Zack Greinke was uncommonly vulnerable, allowing two runs and barely escaped a higher tally. Based on the template of the last week or so, the Dodgers’ fate already seemed sealed and they’d be staring down the dismal prospect of a series sweep on Sunday.
But rather than pack up the tents, the Dodgers hung in and fought. Weakness was eventually discovered in Cain, who was bounced out of the game after falling into a sixth-inning, bases-loaded jam. Key hits came from stars like Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp, “Who?” reserves like Drew Butera and guys in between like Dee Gordon -- a constant source of energy with his bat and feet (three stolen bases).
There was even some strong defense when Puig ran down a ball in foul territory for a spectacular catch.
In the midst a stretch marked by spotty production, the significance of a comeback win was lost on nobody.
“I think those are really big,” said Greinke. “I don’t know if we’ve done that too much lately. Maybe earlier in the year. Those are the best ones.
“To win a tie game and win in extra innings is big, but we were down for a long time and still stayed in there. I think it was really big.”
“Every comeback is a good comeback,” he said. “I’m just glad we put some runs on the board. We didn’t really score any runs last night. We came out and started swinging the bats good and getting some big hits in some key situations.
“We’re not getting beat bad. These are close games we’re losing. But we gotta learn how to win those close games and do a better job of that.”
Gordon chimed in, as well.
“Shoot, it felt good, man,” Gordon said. “It hasn’t happened for us like that in a long time. To see guys score insurance runs. Get guys over. Just shows you the type of team that we have the potential to have.”
As Mattingly noted, every game carries the potential to be the start of something bigger. Whether that’s the case of Saturday’s win is, at best, an open question and one that nobody claims to have the answer.
“The only thing I know is we won,” Gordon said. “That’s it. That’s all I know. I’m coming hard and I’m coming ready to play tomorrow. That’s it. That’s all I can control.”
Whatever the future holds, the Saturday provided at least a pretty solid blueprint for success.
“We just fight, you know,” Kemp said. “We kept going, and we got the win. We gotta keep doing that.”