LOS ANGELES -- Frank McCourt leaned back in his front-row seat behind home plate, cheerfully eating peanuts and not particularly worried that his team trailed, 6-0.
The Dodgers' No. 1 fan and rookie owner has reason to remain upbeat. Los Angeles suddenly has become one of baseball's best teams, opening a lead over the defending champion Giants and upstart Padres in the competitive National League West.
"We've been getting solid pitching, our defense has been superb, and we've had timely hitting," McCourt said. "I think what makes a team really good is talent, chemistry, and confidence.
"We have good talent, and I believe the chemistry is there. These guys have a lot of fun playing, and they go out every night feeling they are going to win. I believe we have a quiet confidence now, which comes with winning."
And the Dodgers have been winning, with the third-best record in the majors behind St. Louis and the New York Yankees going into the weekend.
"You get a feeling of invincibility when you're clicking on all cylinders. Regardless of whether you're playing at home or on the road, or regardless of who's pitching, you feel like you're going to win the game," left fielder Dave Roberts said.
After trailing San Francisco by 3 1/2 games at the start of this month, the Dodgers had won 15 of 17 games as they headed into this weekend's series against San Diego at Dodger Stadium. Los Angeles was 2 1/2 games in front of the Padres, 3 1/2 ahead of the Giants.
"The Dodgers have a great club this year," San Francisco's J.T. Snow said. "They've added some great pieces, and they're playing with confidence."
Even when the Dodgers fell six runs behind Colorado in a game earlier this week, McCourt wasn't conceding anything. After all, Los Angeles has come from behind in 29 of its 55 victories this year. The Dodgers' rally fell one run short in that game against the Rockies, a 6-5 loss that ended an eight-game winning streak.
"Over the course of our last 15-16 ballgames, we have done nothing but execute offensively and defensively in virtually every situation," manager Jim Tracy said. "We have run the bases very aggressively and have forced opposing clubs to make mistakes due to our aggressiveness.
"We've worked very hard at our defense. When you don't give the other side the opportunity to score cheap runs on you, it puts less of a burden on your offense."
The Dodgers had committed a major-league low 40 errors through 94 games.
"Our middle is as good defensively as anybody in the game," Tracy said of shortstop Cesar Izturis, second baseman Alex Cora, and center fielder Milton Bradley.
"We're as good as anybody in the game at third base [with Adrian Beltre]. Shawn Green has done a terrific job in the conversion process to playing first base."
Tracy said the offense has improved because the hitters are being more selective and working opposing pitchers deeper into counts, forcing opposing starters to throw more pitches earlier in games.
Beltre, Izturis, and Paul Lo Duca all were hitting above .300, with Bradley at .287 and Cora at .295 going into the weekend. Green's hitting seems to be coming around after struggling earlier.
Plus, at the end of games, the Dodgers can bring Eric Gagne out of the bullpen to protect leads.
Even McCourt fully realizes the team will have some down periods.
"It's what makes the business so interesting and so much fun, it's so dynamic and fluid," he said.
The division race figures to be interesting and fun the rest of this season. San Francisco manager Felipe Alou and San Diego counterpart Bruce Bochy believe their teams will make it that way.
"Nobody is going to run away with this division, I don't think," Alou said. "The three clubs at the top are too good, and Colorado and Arizona are no pushovers.
"It's going to be down the wire to September to see who comes out of here. I think we'll have two teams in the playoffs. I think the wild card will come out of the West."
Said Bochy: "It's going to be like this the whole way, be deep into the season before you know who's going to win this. We've got a real good ballclub, and I'd like to think we've improved enough to make some noise."
Green said the Dodgers certainly can't start feeling secure.
"We realize that there's still more than two months left in the season," he said. "Even if we had a six- or a seven-game lead, there's still a lot of time left. So you can't get too comfortable."