Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp is congratulated by manager Don Mattingly… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)
SAN DIEGO – If the Dodgers are half as good as they hope to be, they’d best get off to a roaring start and jump out to an early lead in the National League West.
Not just because they could use the confidence boost after last year’s mediocrity, but because the schedule appears to be greatly in their favor.
Not only are they playing the crummy Padres in two of their first three series, but in their 23 games this month, they meet only one team that made the playoffs last year. Of their eight series, only two are against teams that even had winning records.
They have to be able to beat up on the Padres, Pirates, Astros, and even Nationals, then prove they can hold their own with the Brewers and Braves.
Manager Don Mattingly sort of pooh-poohs the whole concept of analyzing an early schedule. Which I guess is a good preemptive move in case you belly flop.
“Teams early in the year, no matter who you’re playing, nobody knows who’s going to be good, not going to be good,” he said. “Pittsburgh played really good early in the year last year. At the end of the year they didn’t do very well, but they were really good for a long time.
“You don’t know who you’re going to run into, how they’re going to be playing early. Everybody comes out of spring training confident and hopeful. Early in the year, a lot of things are unsettled.”
Right, for every team. But the Dodgers’ April schedule certainly appears more favorable than those of division favorites the Diamondbacks and Giants.
Those teams open against each other. Then waiting for Arizona this month are the Braves, Phillies and Marlins. San Francisco’s April schedule includes the Phillies and Reds.
Not that Mattingly claims to be buying any of it.
“Early in the season, it’s just hard to look at schedules,” Mattingly said. “I look at weather more than anything else.”
The Dodgers don’t make an East Coast trip until June. After this weekend in San Diego, they make only one more road trip this month, to Milwaukee and Houston.
The Dodgers play 14 of their first 23 games against teams that finished at least 16 games under .500 last season. Seems like a perfect set-up for a fast start.