There was a somber tone in the clubhouse Friday night after the Dodgers’ second loss in a row to the first place Arizona Diamondbacks. Despite solid pitching from starters Derek Lowe in game one and Clayton Kershaw in game two, the Dodgers could muster only a single run in each game. To cap it off, their great expectation, Manny Ramirez, had grounded into a ninth inning double play to squash hopes of a rally.

The loss set them three games behind the D-backs. The question was pervasive: When would Manny’s much-celebrated bat kick into gear?

Well, the answer came more quickly than expected. Game three, first inning, Ramirez to the plate, first pitch, Whammo! A two run shot into the left field pavilion. The Dodgers would go on to snatch up the remaining two games of the series to end where they started; a game above .500 and a game behind the D-backs.

So what’s so new?

“For one thing, we’re a different team,” explains right fielder Matt Kemp. “We just got one of the best, if not the best, right-handed hitters in baseball.”

What seems obvious to Kemp is starting to sink in for everyone else. In his first three games with the Dodgers, Manny Ramirez is batting .615 with two HRs and six RBIs. There’s a palpable change in the atmosphere at Dodger Stadium on and off the field since his arrival. Despite trailing the D-backs, a sensation is felt that the Dodgers are ready to take the NL West division.

While the hard work of winning remains, there are some very good reasons to be excited. Besides Manny’s fantastic offensive contribution, Dodger pitching seems to have finally stabilized as is evident by the solid recent starts by Lowe, Kershaw and Hiroki Kuroda. And with Brad Penny set to rejoin the rotation this week, there’s even more reason for hope.

The changes in the infield are substantial as well, with the acquisitions of Casey Blake on third base and Angel Berroa at shortstop. Together, they have provided an awesome improvement defensively, which makes longings for the injured Nomar Garciaparra and Rafael Furcal easier to bear.

Whatever can be said about the Dodgers and their not particularly flattering win percentage, it cannot be denied that they’re endowed, all of a sudden, with a new attitude.

The next Dodgers home game is Aug. 11 vs. the Philadelphia Phillies. For more information, visit