Don Mattingly likes Dodgers' energy

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers had lost two straight series before they swept the last-place Arizona Diamondbacks over the weekend, but Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly had an unusually sunny disposition when he met with reporters before Monday night’s game against the San Diego Padres.

“I’m happy with everything right now,” Mattingly said.

Of course, most managers would be in a good mood if Clayton Kershaw were about to pitch a game for their team, but Mattingly said the reason for his optimism was a new sense of urgency around the team. Before Wednesday's game, the Dodgers had gone 0-50 when trailing after seven innings. The Dodgers twice rallied to tie it late, but that game turned into a 14-inning loss to the Washington Nationals.

“I like the fact guys are talking about the right things, like having good at-bats, and I can feel the energy on the bench,” Mattingly said. “We’ve been more competitive in games we’ve been down. Right now, it’s that time of year. We’re in a pennant race. We know every game is important, every at-bat is important, every play you make on the field is important. Guys know where we’re at.”

The Dodgers go into Monday’s game with a three-game lead over the second-place San Francisco Giants with 19 games to play, including six against the Giants. The Giants are idle Monday.

Mattingly said he has liked the way the Dodgers have responded so far to September baseball with a division title on the line.

“When you’re at Game 100 or Game 90 and you know you’ve got 70 games to go, you try to push, push, push, and that’s what we try to do as coaches," he said. "But it’s just harder at that time of year. As you get later and you see there are X games left and every game can cost you, I just think there’s more of a sense of urgency, naturally. That’s why I like this time of year: You get every guy’s best concentration.”

This series against the Padres could be a good test of the Dodgers’ concentration, as their next series comes against the Giants.