Reporting from Phoenix — The Dodgers can win the National League West.
That was the novel premise introduced by James Loney on Sunday after Clayton Kershaw had a rare late-inning collapse in a 4-3 defeat that prevented the Dodgers from sweeping the Arizona Diamondbacks.
"People are always going to say why you can't win it," Loney said. "My thing is, 'Why can't we win it?' Why can't we be a special team and make a run and have you guys write about that?"
The Dodgers are 10 games behind the first-place San Francisco Giants.
If the Giants play .500 ball over the remainder of the regular season, the Dodgers would have to win 34 of their last 50 games to force a one-game playoff to decide the division title.
Loney's optimism wasn't based on numbers, but something he said he felt in the clubhouse as the Dodgers were preparing to return home for a three-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies.
"I feel a sense of, 'We can win this thing,' " he said. "I feel guys are happy every day, even if they were 0 for 4 or we lost the game before. It's 'We're going to beat you today.'
"This is one of the best teams I've ever been on, as far as personalities, the work that we put in, and being confident. I don't see any doubt in anybody here."
Manager Don Mattingly said something similar about his team, which is made up largely of journeymen and rookies.
He said the only time his team looked flat was July 31, the day of the nonwaiver trade deadline.
The manager said he understood why the Dodgers had trouble finding inspiration that day. Rafael Furcal was traded. They were playing a day game after five consecutive night games. Starting pitcher Rubby De La Rosa threw 103 pitches in four innings that day, resulting in a lot of standing around for the position players.
Still, Mattingly said he addressed the team the next day in San Diego.
He reminded players to be on the field 15 minutes before the game. He told them to not be on their cellphones in the half-hour leading up to the game.
The short meeting marked the start of a 4-2 trip.
They took two of three from the San Diego Padres and did the same against the Diamondbacks.
But Mattingly and his players saw a missed opportunity.
Heading into Sunday, the Giants had lost eight of their last nine games. The Diamondbacks had lost three in a row.
"It could've been 5-1, at least," Kershaw said. "We'll take it, but it could've been better."
Said Mattingly: "We have a chance to have a great trip and we end up having a good trip. But I don't think we're at a point where we can look at trips so much. We're trying to win every day. Early in the year, you say, 'That's a good trip.' But you got a chance to basically end up sweeping a club that you're chasing, you have your guy [Kershaw] out there, I think it's a little bit of a downer."
If the Dodgers aren't careful, it could turn into something worse. They face Roy Halladay on Monday and Cliff Lee on Tuesday.