LOS ANGELES -- A week-long test stared them in the face, the first significant barometer in an infant season for a team expected to contend for a National League pennant.
And the Los Angeles Dodgers aced it: Six games, six victories. Two opponents with postseason aspirations. Two sweeps. Seven consecutive wins overall. First place.
The Dodgers did not lose a game to the Seattle Mariners or Colorado Rockies this week. The Mariners are a team built to make the playoffs this season, and the Rockies came to Dodger Stadium with one of the game’s best offensive attacks and in sole possession of the NL West lead.
Both clubs were shoved onto their charter planes with tails between legs. At the end of it all, the Dodgers reminded everyone they’ve played only a dozen games.
“What I’ve liked is the day-in, day-out mentality we’ve had. Nobody’s gotten totally excited, going crazy,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “I think they understand where we are at in the season.”
Where they are at is in the midst of an offensive rampage. Over the seven-game win streak, the lineup has hit 10 home runs, 25 doubles and scored 44 runs. It now leads the National League with 17 home runs, a .288/.368/.517 slash line, and leads the majors with an .885 OPS and 36 doubles after it hit seven Sunday.
This output might not have been expected considering the Dodgers lost Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez this past offseason. But if you listened to Adrian Gonzalez during spring training, this was still a forceful lineup capable of hitting teams into submission.
“Just look at who we have. I’ve already explained it a million times: we lost two guys, but we gained four [Jimmy Rollins, Howie Kendrick, Joc Pederson and Yasmani Grandal],” Gonzalez said. “This would surprise you if you didn’t believe me when I said it.”
However, Mattingly admitted he’s surprised by the power displayed throughout the roster. Nine players have home runs, led by Gonzalez’s five. Twelve have doubles, led by Gonzalez again with eight.
This has not been an all-offense run, though. The starting pitching has a 2.80 ERA through the seven wins, and the bullpen has been just as impressive despite starting the season looking just as bad as it did at the end of last year, giving up eight earned runs in its first 18 innings.
In the last six games, though, Dodger relievers have allowed one earned run in 20 1/3 innings and did not allow a run to a dangerous Rockies lineup over the weekend. The Mariners and Rockies combined to hit .104 (7-for-67) with 28 strikeouts against Los Angeles’ bullpen.
But again, cautious optimism reigns in the clubhouse as the team heads to San Francisco to face a 4-10 Giants team that already looks half dead in their cove.
“It feels good right now,” Mattingly said. “It’s a long season. With this game, you stay humble and you keep working, because it can turn around in a day and the next thing you know you’re going in the wrong direction.
“Obviously we’re pleased with the offensive production and how the bullpen has thrown the ball, but we kind of leave it there, that it’s good and we’re capable.”