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Thursday, May 15, 2014
Series preview: Dodgers at Diamondbacks

By Mark Saxon

PHOENIX -- The Los Angeles Dodgers are coming off another losing homestand in which they got beaten in the final game by 10 runs, so why was manager Don Mattingly feeling so good about his team late Wednesday night? He said he liked the energy level better over the past seven games than he had while the Dodgers were finishing off a winning, and exhausting, road trip to three cities beforehand.

“The last five or six days, it felt like our club,” Mattingly said.

It will be even more their club Friday, when Juan Uribe is expected to return to the starting lineup, giving the Dodgers their healthiest roster of the season or, for that matter, several seasons. Aside from Hyun-Jin Ryu, who could return in a matter of days, and Chad Billingsley, who was never firmly in the team’s first-half plans coming off Tommy John surgery, they will be at full strength.

If ever there was a time when excuses count for nothing, it’s now, going into this weekend’s series at Chase Field. The Dodgers are 7-1 against the last-place Arizona Diamondbacks and they’ll be playing behind Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw in the first two games.

If the real Dodgers don’t show up soon, when will they?

“We’re healthy, and... we’ll see,” Mattingly said.

The Dodgers have outscored Arizona 46-28, but they might find the resistance a bit stiffer this weekend. Arizona is playing better even if the results haven’t been dramatically better. The Diamondbacks, who had the worst rotation in baseball for a month, have seen their starters go 6-2 with a 2.70 ERA in May.

For manager Kirk Gibson and general manager Kevin Towers, the hope is that this season is simply playing out in reverse from 2013. Last year, the Diamondbacks roared out to a 35-26 start by early June and had built a 4 -game division lead by July 7, but they struggled thereafter and finished with a .500 record, 11 games behind the Dodgers. The Dodgers, of course, started slowly before rattling off an historic 42-8 run starting June 21.

In the past few series, including one in Arizona, there has been little evidence of the bad blood the teams shared in 2013, perhaps in part because both teams felt they were underachieving and had little energy left for such hostilities. Six weeks into the season, the Diamondbacks still haven't won a series at home. They are 4-17 at Chase Field.

Friday the Dodgers face lefty Wade Miley, who -- amazingly -- will be making his fourth start this season against them. He was the opposing pitcher on Opening Day in Australia, getting soundly outpitched by Kershaw. He has generally fared fine against the Dodgers, going 3-3 with a 3.96 ERA.

One reason the Dodgers have handled the Diamondbacks so much more easily this season is they have figured out a way to limit the damage Paul Goldschmidt does to their pitching. In 38 plate appearances against the Dodgers this year, Goldschmidt is batting .229 with nine strikeouts and just two exta-base hits. Last year, he batted .388 with five doubles and six home runs against the Dodgers, good for a 1.105 OPS.