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The Curious Case of the Dodgers Offense

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Things have changed in the last two weeks with the Dodgers. All season long watching this Dodger team has been painful. Game after game there was a pretty good chance to witness a good pitching performance, but the offense was awful.

“There were times earlier in the year when you get down one run you think, ‘Oh God, we’re down a run,’” Manager Don Mattingly said. “It’s just a different feeling right now.”

Including Wednesday afternoon’s 4-1 victory over the San Diego Padres, the Dodgers have averaged 6.56 runs per game since Mattingly moved Matt Kemp to the third spot in the lineup on August 21. Prior to that the Dodgers were only averaging 3.69 runs per game on the season.

It’s clear there is a different feeling surrounding the Dodgers, especially since they took sole possession of third place in the NL West for the first time since May 17 after Tuesday night’s 8-5 win over the Padres. But Mattingly deflected the credit.

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“I’d like to think it’s moving [Kemp] to the three-hole, but I really don’t think that’s the biggest part,” Mattingly said. “During that time, Rod’s hit three or four homers. Tony [Gwynn] is swinging the bat. Sells [Justin Sellers] is swinging the bat. James [Loney] is swinging the bat. Now you get ‘Dre [Ethier] going a little bit.

“We’re swinging pretty good as a ball club.”

Catcher Rod Barajas, who broke the 1-1 tie with a two-run blast in the second inning, couldn’t put his finger on it.

“I would have to say it’s a coincidence,” Barajas said. However he amended later, “I don’t know what the difference is.”

One thing that is very noticeable in the clubhouse is the return of swagger. Admittedly it seems ridiculous for a team five games under .500 to have swagger, but winning eight of their nine games does give them a certain cache.

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“There’s a whole kind of confidence right now that you see,” Mattingly noted. He used Sunday’s 7-6 loss to the Colorado Rockies as an example. Although they lost the game, Mattingly was proud to see them fight back.

“We’re down 5-0 in the first. We got one right back, then we got another one. You get the feeling when you’re sitting over here that we’re going to score. I think they think that which is important.”

And that brings us back to the recurring theme of the season. From the very beginning Mattingly repeated that what he cared for the most were players who never gave up and continued to work.

“The biggest thing I’ve been proud of: this club has not quit playing,” Mattingly admired. “They didn’t quit when we were really struggling. They kept play hard then. They’re playing the same way now, but we’re getting wins. That’s my biggest focus: we’ve got to play every day.”

And if they continue scoring on this clip while the San Francisco Giants continue to lose, the Dodgers could wind up with not only a winning record but second place in the division - unthinkable a month ago.

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“We struggled so badly in the middle part of the season,” Barajas said. “We couldn’t hit at all. We were a bad hitting baseball team. Everybody in this clubhouse knew we were better than what we showed.”

For Barajas ending the season with a winning record would be a source of pride from him knowing the team would have inflicted some damage on Arizona, San Francisco and Atlanta - the three teams fighting for playoff spots that are left on the schedule.

“To have this run where we’re showing everybody that we’re not the team you want to play, we’re not the fourth place team where these teams in the pennant race are hoping we come. We don’t want anybody to think of us that way.”