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The Dodgers could bring a circus back to town

5/22/2013

If the Dodgers had hit like this all season, nobody would be talking about their lack of toughness, nobody would be speculating about their managers' job status and Andre Ethier would be happily planted in right field for the foreseeable future.

But, as we all know, Wednesday's 9-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers and struggling pitching prospect Wily Peralta was the anomaly. Maybe that will change, the Dodgers will get on a roll at last and all these problems will go away. Or, maybe not.

But it certainly feels like we could be in for an eventful next few days at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers have an open date Thursday before beginning a weekend series against the powerful St. Louis Cardinals.

Among the issues to work out: Ethier's future with the team, Don Mattingly's future with the team and the possibility the front office is mulling some wholesale changes to its roster.

It felt like something had changed permanently when manager Mattingly spoke up before the game and questioned his team's -- and particularly Ethier's -- ability to compete. Ethier was benched against Peralta, a right-hander.

"There's a touch difference between, 'I'm giving you my best effort' and being willing to fight you for that prize, to do whatever it takes to win," Mattingly told reporters in Milwaukee. "It's almost something inside you that says you're not beating me today, you're not getting me out.

"There's another level you can't measure with SABR-metrics. They may say 'BS' to that. But there are certain things that you can't measure."

Already, the Dodgers are being mocked by some statistically minded baseball fans on Twitter, many of whom view attributes such as "grit" and "mental toughness" as unquantifiable or meaningless or laughable. And maybe Mattingly doesn't care any more what people think. If he's going to go down, he may as well go down his way.

It also doesn't hurt to have a really good pitcher on the mound the day you decide to send a message. Hyun-Jin Ryu has been as reliable as anybody the Dodgers send to the mound who don't have the initials "CK," and Wednesday was his longest start as a major leaguer, another 7 1/3 gritty innings.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers applied steady pressure against a struggling Milwaukee pitching staff. Even forgotten prospects (Scott Van Slyke) and declining veterans (Ramon Hernandez) got in on the action. The Dodgers came into the game batting .222 with runners in scoring position, but went 6 for 15 in such situations Wednesday.

One gets the impression that Wednesday was the beginning of some major changes. Maybe they'll take place on the field. Maybe they'll take place off it.