Is this 9-1 start by the Dodgers for real? We could be about to find out.
The Dodgers will begin a three-game series in Milwaukee on Tuesday night. The Brewers are one very roundish, slugging first baseman shy of the National League Central-winning team they were last year, but thanks to an overturned positive performance-enhancing drug test suspension, they are still pretty good -- and certainly better than either the San Diego Padres or Pittsburgh Pirates, those NL bottom feeders against whom this gaudy, early season Dodgers record was fashioned.
The Dodgers will face three starting pitchers with ERAs of at least 5.91 in this series, but don't be misled by that. This early in a season, when mathematics tend to be skewed, a single bad outing can inflate a pitcher's ERA, and those starters are Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke and Randy Wolf, so they know what they're doing.
In other words, this is the first major test for these Dodgers. By lunchtime Thursday, when the matinee series finale will be over, we should have a much clearer picture of what the rest of the summer will be like.
Still, when you start a season by winning nine of your first 10 games, it means something. And it might mean something more come September.
"It's nice to get off to a good start,'' Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Obviously, it's 10 games. We have 152 left. There is a long way to go. We're going to hit rough patches, and you never know when they're going to come. That is why it's always good to get out of the blocks with a good start.''
I was talking with a scout -- beat writers spend a lot of time before games talking to scouts -- who was just shaking his head at how many bad teams there are in the NL this year. That might be the best thing the Dodgers have going for them right now, especially because there is a team in their own division, the Padres, that might be counted among those pretenders. The Dodgers already have played the Padres seven times this season, winning six of them, and get to play them 11 more times.
After the Brewers comes a three-game series against the Houston Astros, who are a semi-respectable 4-5, but many baseball insiders felt coming into the season that they were the worst team in the majors. So how much does a 4-5 start for the Astros mean? About as much as a 9-1 start by the Dodgers means.
My point is this: The Dodgers are going to run into good teams, better teams than they are, at various points during the season. But they also are going to run into a lot of bad ones. It is one thing to say you can't really measure a team by how it performs against subpar opponents. But that is why it is so important to win those games, because by doing so, you give yourself a margin for error when you play the tougher teams.
To that end, a 9-1 start is a 9-1 start, regardless of who the opponents have been. Because those are nine wins in the standings. Nine wins in the can. Nine wins that ultimately could make the difference in whether the Dodgers reach the playoffs.
Because, in theory at least, those wins may be a little tougher to come by starting Tuesday.