LOS ANGELES -- Somebody asked Don Mattingly if he felt Saturday's game was in hand going into the final inning, his team clinging to a 1-0 lead behind an absolutely dominant Zack Greinke.
"No, not really," Mattingly admitted.
So, Mattingly got a little affirmation. He approached Greinke on the bench to see how the right-hander felt before he went out for the ninth inning and, specifically, how he felt about possibly facing Carlos Gonzalez -- and his 25 home runs -- just as his body began to grow weary.
Mattingly had the option of turning to closer Kenley Jansen, who's on a roll, and Greinke was the first batter up in the bottom of the eighth.
"He's like, 'I got him,'" Mattingly said, "So, I knew he was pretty good."
Greinke isn't just a good pitcher, he's a streaky pitcher and -- like a lot of things in this rapidly improving Dodgers season -- his fortunes appear to be on a rapid ascent. Saturday's 1-0 shutout of the Colorado Rockies, in which he gave up only two hits and struck out nine batters in 110 crisp pitches, was only the latest evidence.
Greinke (8-2) has pitched 16 consecutive scoreless innings, just a few shy of the 19 straight Clayton Kershaw rattled off to start the season. For the first time, he's giving Dodgers fans a glimpse into his Cy Young potential, though the front office has been clearly convinced for a while, considering they agreed to pay him $147 million over the next six seasons.
He's 5-0 with a 2.17 ERA at Dodger Stadium.
"Just lucky and hot right now," Greinke said.
For the record, he was talking about his .367 hitting. The pitching goes a bit beyond luck, of course. Greinke made a little mechanical adjustment before his previous start, and that, coupled with improved strength as his injury-delayed season moves along, has given him extra snap on his pitches. His fastball is touching the mid-90s, with movement, and his slider can be devastating.
"There's a difference between a guy throwing 93 [mph] to the zone and 93 through the zone," Mattingly said.
Greinke had an 0.84 ERA in his first 10 starts of 2009, when he won the Cy Young, and went 15-0 in home starts for a good stretch of 2011 and 2012. When he gets on a roll, he tends to stay on a roll for a while.
"I don't know why that's the case, but it's like that hitting, it's like that fielding, it's like that pitching. It's probably like that writing articles, I don't know," Greinke said, speaking to reporters. "The team playing good also helps."
The Dodgers played Saturday without Yasiel Puig, who's nursing a sore hip, Carl Crawford, who's nursing a sore back, and Matt Kemp, who's on the disabled list because of a recurrence of shoulder pain. For the second game in a row, their hot offense sputtered out against middling starting pitchers.
Mattingly says he tends to get nervous at this time of season as players begin gazing ahead to next week's All-Star break. That's why eking out a close win could help the Dodgers keep their momentum alive. They have won six of their past seven games and 17 of their past 21. They're winning games in different ways, which always helps.
"That's when the confidence grows," Mattingly said.
It seems to be fairly well established at this point.