OAKLAND Even when the Los Angeles Dodgers lose, as they did 4-1 to the A's on Wednesday night, they still seem to win.
For the second straight night, the Giants lost in tandem with the Dodgers to the Los Angeles Angels maintaining a 4 1/2-game lead in the National League West for the blue crew of who knew.
Theirs could be called a charmed run, which could raise questions about the sustainability of their success, but Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is coolly secure about the head- scratching his team inspires.
When you're the only N.L. team with more than 40 wins entering Wednesday's game, why should you care what anybody thinks? But it's not just that the Dodgers have risen far above predictions of a distant finish behind the Giants and Arizona Diamondbacks.
It's how the Dodgers have gotten to this point before a big series next week in San Francisco with their ancient rivals, the Giants.
Rid of their deplorable owner, Frank McCourt, fortune seems to smile on the Dodgers in a different way on different days.
They've stayed on top despite the prolonged injury to superstar center fielder Matt Kemp. Mark Ellis, the Dodgers' best defensive player, has also missed significant time.
An already suspect offense without Kemp has truly sputtered of late A's left-hander Tommy Milone toyed with them in a quick 2 hours, 21 minutes and yet they remain on top.
The list of unlikely contributors to the Dodgers' success is impressive. Before Wednesday's game, Mattingly said what a pleasant surprise reliever Ronald Belisario has been and how Belisario has been a "good citizen" and pitched exceptionally well after his 25-game suspension for cocaine use.
Yeah, cocaine use.
When I asked Mattingly if "pleasant surprises" all over the diamond was the Dodgers' theme of the year, he paused. He wasn't mad, but he knows what people are thinking.
"I should say that I don't think we're surprised that we're winning (before coming to Oakland)," Mattingly said. "We played well at the end of last season, and we expected to be good. But if you had told me we would lose (Kemp and Ellis) for long stretches and be at this point, I'd say we were surprised."
Like the Giants, the Dodgers are where they are because of pitching. Their ERA is second only to the Washington Nationals, but it's hard to figure given the individuals involved.
Clayton Kershaw is an elite pitcher, though he hasn't dominated this season as he did last.
The underachieving Chad Billingsley has had his moments but is still 4-5 with a 3.75 ERA.
The revelation has been Chris Capuano, the left-hander with two Tommy John surgeries. The Dodgers are his fourth team. He spent the 2009 season in the minor leagues after reaching the All-Star Game with Milwaukee in 2006.
Yet he's 8-2. For the first time in his career, Capuano has an ERA under 3.00 at 2.71. Almost all of his numbers are career bests by far.
Aaron Harang, another journeyman, has been solid.
Who saw that coming?
Elian Herrera, a 27-year-old utilityman with nearly a decade in the minors, has been plugged in all over the diamond to huge success, despite going hitless Wednesday.
"He's been one of those surprises," Mattingly said. "I'd like to say we knew he was there in spring training, but he wasn't even on the roster."
Entering this series, Herrera had an on-base percentage over .400.
"It's awesome, and I feel really happy," he told the Los Angeles Times. "I'm being blessed by God, doing what I like doing."
Yes. The Dodgers are certainly being blessed.
It's not that they don't have talent besides Kemp. They do. Andre Ethier is one of the league's best hitters. But to illustrate the difference between him and every other Dodgers hitter not named Kemp, Ethier has nearly 30 RBIs more than the next Dodger not named Kemp.
They've won to this point with heroic comebacks carried out with castoffs such as Bobby Abreu.
Is the Dodgers' success sustainable? They certainly looked beatable Wednesday, barely touching Milone and playing sloppily in the field.
They still have the N.L.'s best record, even if questions they raise drown out the praise they feel they deserve.
We'll see next week.