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T.J. SIMERS

With Dodgers thinking, 'Why not?' he's thinking, 'Why?'

James Loney says, 'Why can't we be a special team and make a run?" and Don Mattingly says he feels 'like we can win it.' All the talk may just fire fans up, right?

August 08, 2011|T.J. Simers
  • Dodgers first baseman James Loney reacts while striking out in front of Philadelphia catcher Carlos Ruiz to end the fifth inning of the Dodgers' 5-3 loss Monday.
Dodgers first baseman James Loney reacts while striking out in front of… (Harry How / Getty Images )

I'm telling you, goose bumps.

Does it get any bigger than this, a National League playoff preview between the Phillies and Dodgers, the teams that will probably meet for the right to advance to the World Series this October?

A stretch, I know, because James Loney would want to know why I would take for granted the Phillies will be there.

As you might have noticed, Loney already had his say in the morning newspaper, telling The Times' Dylan Hernandez, "I feel a sense of, 'We can win this thing.' "

You can't blame him; the Dodgers recently taking two out of three from the Padres.

"I feel guys are happy every day, even if they were 0 for 4 or we lost the game before," says Loney. "It's, 'We're going to beat you today.' "

Tell me that doesn't fire you up.

"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," says Loney, and no report of Hernandez giggling or mentioning Jeff Kent and Manny Ramirez. "I don't see any doubt in anybody here."

Some folks might want to write this off as just loony tunes, while humming "kumbaya" and noting Loney made what seemed like two more ridiculous comments in the newspaper than he has home runs this season.

But come on, a break here or there, 22 more wins for the Dodgers and they would have begun play Monday night tied with the Phillies for the best record in the National League.

Playoffs, baby.

"Maybe a full house tonight," says Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly before the crowd falls only 30,000 or so shy of a sellout, undoubtedly because folks figured no tickets were going to be available for such a big game.

Right now the Phillies have the best record in baseball, so to be the best you have to beat the best, the Dodgers obviously excited about the possibility of taking on the Phillies in the playoffs.

As for the Phillies, "I'm sure they want no part of us," says Mattingly, the Dodgers the only team in baseball the last five years to have a winning record against Angryville (19-18).

Although it's true the Phillies are 66 games above .500 and the Dodgers 11 games below .500 since the teams met in the National League Championship Series two years ago, people are forgetting the Dodgers just beat Arizona two out of three.

"My thing is, 'Why can't we win it?' " Loney says, and instead of answering his question by naming the current players on the Dodgers roster, Hernandez allows Loney to keep talking in the paper.

"Why can't we be a special team and make a run and have you guys write about that?" Loney wants to know.

There's no question every reporter and columnist in town is pulling for the Dodgers and their amazing comeback. The Lakers and Clippers are locked out, so go, Dodgers, go.

"Realistically," Mattingly says somewhat unrealistically, "we've got to go out now and win four out of five all the time. If we can do that over a period of time and creep a little bit, you never know."

Mattingly knows what it takes, all right. He played for the Yankees for 14 seasons, and in that time the Yankees went to the playoffs once.

But the Yankees were behind in the standings when they did, says Mattingly, winning 18 of their last 21 (actually 19 of their last 23) to make it to the postseason.

The Yankees still finished seven games behind the Red Sox, but they made it as a wild card. So when things get tough down the stretch, Mattingly can tell the guys he never finished in first, but there's no reason to quit because he still made it once.

"I feel like we can win it," Mattingly says, offering a preview of what he might say to pep up the boys, "but we're going to have to play baseball every day."

I know that raises the question, what have the Dodgers been playing the first 113 games of the season, but Mattingly was already getting irritated with the line of questioning.

It started when he mentioned Jonathan Broxton and Juan Uribe and what they are doing to get healthy.

"You still want them to come back?" I ask, obviously the Dodgers in a groove now.

"Yeah," says Mattingly.

"But you have to win almost every day," I remind him. "You still want Broxton to come back?"

"I thought we were talking about Uribe," Mattingly says, and enough said about Broxton.

Scoreboard watching becomes important now, the Giants and Diamondbacks losing again. It would be nice if the Dodgers could clinch the playoffs a week or two before the season ends and maybe rest Rod Barajas and Trent Oeltjen.

"It is exciting," says Mattingly before the start of the big game with the Phillies, the Dodgers with the chance to move to within nine games of the Giants. Makes you tingle all over, doesn't it?

A few months ago, Mattingly's goal was to have the Dodgers reach the .500 mark by the All Star break. In somewhat of a shocker, the Dodgers failed to do so.

Mattingly's goal now, he says, "is to win every day."

The Dodgers lost Monday night.

But they still feel really good about themselves, and that's so encouraging.

t.j.simers@latimes.com

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