But let's focus on the positive. Life is beginning to look real good for the Dodgers. What's been missing from their lineup for the last two seasons, that intimidating presence, arrived in a big way on Friday night (even though he grounded into a double play in the 9th). That's not all. They also got the second consecutive very quality start from the teen phenom, Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers already had a lot to be thankful for. In Russell Martin, Matt Kemp, and James Loney, they have the best trio of 25-and-under hitters outside of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They've got the best team ERA in the NL and the second-best bullpen ERA in baseball. They've got Joe Torre and his history of late-season surges. They've got Juan Pierre and Andruw Jones riding the pine, as the most expensive pinch-hitting/defensive-replacement combo in the history of baseball. They've got Brad Penny, Rafael Furcal, Nomar Garciaparra, and Takashi Saito due back from the disabled list by the end of the month; a re-infusion of talent unlike anything that's going be passing through the waiver wires. Most importantly, perhaps, they're playing in a division which can be had for 85 wins.
This is a team which, despite its massive market, has flown under the radar all season, thanks largely to their frankly mediocre play. Still, they are a mere two games out with two games still to go in a series against division-leading Arizona, whose big deadline acquisition was Tony Clark. Kemp and Loney are both showing signs of equaling the extraordinary post-break production they put up in 2007, when they combined for a .325 average, 19 HR, and 80 RBI. Joe Torre's habit of resting Russell Martin by playing him at third base has not only kept his bat in the lineup, but should have him fresher for the stretch drive. All will benefit from having a cleanup hitter who isn't Jeff Kent. One would assume, Jeff Kent might also benefit from a little less pressure.
Getting to the postseason, of course, is little more than half the battle. In Manny, they've got themselves a playoff monster. But, more importantly, they already had a deep rotation. Even though they don't possess the 1-2 punch of Milwaukee, Arizona, or Chicago, this team could be a force in October