Road trip could determine much for Dodgers

Road trip could determine much for Dodgers

LOS ANGELES -- If the last six games were a shot in the arm for the previously slumping Dodgers, the next 10 could be a good indicator of what's to come the rest of the season.

During their six-game homestand, the Dodgers won both series after having gone most of May without winning any. Perhaps more importantly, they did it with the bats, as the once-dormant offense came alive for 23 runs during a three-game winning streak that ended Wednesday.

In the end, the stretch didn't do much for the Dodgers in the standings, a shutout loss Wednesday halting some of the momentum and dropping them to 5 1/2 games behind first-place Arizona. But center fielder Matt Kemp, who leads the team in homers and RBIs, said it did breed a newfound confidence in the clubhouse, specifically among the hitters.

The way he sees it, if that sentiment is still there when the Dodgers return home from a 10-game road trip that begins Friday in Cincinnati, they should be in it for the long haul.

"We've been swinging the bats well," Kemp said. "Take that on the road to Cincinnati [and Philadelphia] and go back to Colorado, and we'll see where we stand when we get back home."

Where they stand right now is five games under .500 and fourth in the National League West. But the recent offensive production prompted Kemp to say the Dodgers are "in a good place," despite the deficit.

The solid pitching they got on the homestand -- five quality starts, including a Clayton Kershaw two-hit shutout Sunday -- is nothing new. Combine that with run support and righty starter Jon Garland projects a similar turnaround.

"This homestand showed our team a lot -- what we have inside, what we're capable of doing," Garland said. "Now we've just got to go on the road, play good ball, field it, hit it, and hopefully things start to turn the page and go our way."

Part of turning the page is getting healthy. The return of Casey Blake and Rafael Furcal at the top of the order was a big reason for the offense's success on the homestand. The two combined to hit .341 in the last six games.

But the Dodgers still have five relievers on the disabled list, and Marcus Thames and Juan Uribe could give the offense another boost in the next couple weeks.

By the time they return to Southern California, the Dodgers could look like a completely different ballclub.

Vicente Padilla, who may be used in the closer role, should return from a forearm injury Friday, although manager Don Mattingly hasn't announced a roster move yet to clear room for him. And righty Jonathan Broxton recently threw on flat ground and is expected to throw off a mound and work a couple bullpen sessions on the road trip.

On offense, Mattingly is hoping to have Uribe back for the start of the Philadelphia series on Monday, and Thames, currently at Triple-A Albuquerque, could follow shortly after.

Mattingly noted the importance of the upcoming trip, talking about remaining within striking distance. Given the depth of his rotation, Mattingly said his team is capable of making a run at anytime.

Nonetheless, he was wary of placing too much emphasis on a 10-game trip in early June.

"After that stretch, I'm sure there will be another stretch of big games," Mattingly said. "So we just have to try to get on a roll with winning series. We have to get ourselves playing consistently."

AJ Cassavell is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.