For the traditionalist, this is baseball the way it ought to be. The Dodgers are in first place. The New York Yankees are in first place. October can't come soon enough.
But this is June, and this is interleague play. Tradition can wait. Hype, however, cannot. So bring on the Yankees. Tonight, for the first time, two of baseball's most celebrated franchises meet in the regular season.
"Everybody is looking forward to it," Dodger catcher Paul Lo Duca said. "I know we're all scrambling for tickets."
The Yankees arrive at Dodger Stadium with 26 World Series championships, a player payroll pushing $200 million and the best record in baseball. But the Dodgers are feeling pretty good about themselves, completing a three-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday with a 4-3 victory.
Jason Grabowski tied the score with a pinch-hit home run in the sixth inning, Adrian Beltre hit the game-winning home run in the eighth, and Eric Gagne worked a perfect ninth, extending his major league record by converting his 79th consecutive save opportunity.
The Yankees lead the American League East, to no one's surprise. The Dodgers lead the National League West, with Beltre as their spring surprise.
"We would not be in first place," Dodger Manager Jim Tracy said, "if we had not been getting the type of offensive performance we have out of Adrian Beltre."
Most valuable player? On the Dodgers, certainly, aside from Gagne.
The Yankees imported the defending American League MVP, Alex Rodriguez, as their third baseman this season. But compare the statistics, and Beltre more than holds his own.
Home runs? Tie, 16 for Beltre, 16 for A-Rod. Runs batted in? Beltre 42, A-Rod 38. Batting average? Beltre .305, A-Rod .301.
Beltre didn't stick around to comment after the game, but Tracy offered a suggestion that could spell summer success for the Dodgers. Don't forget, Tracy said, that Beltre traditionally is a second-half player.
"If anything like that correlates to what we're seeing now, you're talking about a guy who has the potential to put together a monster season," Tracy said.
In addition to hitting the game-winning homer, Beltre set up the game-tying homer. With the Dodgers trailing, 3-1, Beltre led off the sixth inning with a double. Two outs later, Grabowski delivered the first pinch-hit home run of his career, tying the score, 3-3.
Grabowski has evolved into a pinch-hitting specialist, an uncomfortable role for any major league newcomer. The Dodgers used him 13 times in that role in April. He struck out five times, with one hit.
But he just might be getting the hang of it, all the while continuing his quiet emergence as a power threat.
In 89 at-bats this season, Grabowski has five homers, an average of one every 17.8 at-bats. Shawn Green, the Dodgers' cleanup hitter, has one homer every 28.9 at-bats.
Darren Dreifort pitched a scoreless inning in relief and struck out two, and Guillermo Mota did the same. Gagne did his thing, and here come the mighty Yankees to face the gutty little Dodgers.
Lo Duca took a quick look at the pitching matchups for the weekend.
"They're a good ballclub. There's no mistaking that," Lo Duca said. "We got a little lucky because [Mike] Mussina and [Kevin] Brown are hurt. We need to take advantage of it."