Los Angeles Dodgers team manager Dave Roberts issued a statement via the MLB Network that he doesn't see a Division that is better than the National League West.
He mentioned maybe the American League East as a comparison, but every night he said: "We're playing within the Division, it's a battle to win a baseball game."
The Dodgers face their nearest challengers, the San Diego Padres on Thursday to start a four-game series at Dodger Stadium and this should be a cracker of a match-up.
San Diego Padres versus Los Angeles Dodgers, Game 1 of 4
Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles, California
03.10 BST, Friday 1st July 2022
|How to watch|
MLB.TV, Sports Live Streaming
|Odds||SD Padres 21/20, LA Dodgers 4/5|
The Padres have always been kept at arm's length by the Dodgers, the big LA club with one of the biggest MLB budgets and the one that always wins the NL West Division.
However, the dynamic changed last season. A Gabe Kapler-inspired San Francisco Giants stole in between the two other clubs and won the title.
The Dodgers had to settle for a Wild Card win over the St. Louis Cardinals, while the Giants went through to the Division series.
The Dodgers prevailed over their oldest rival before losing to eventual winners of the World Series, the Atlanta Braves.
Meanwhile, the Padres were licking their wounds waiting for the 2022 season to begin after finishing third in the division a whopping 28 games back from the Giants and under .500.
San Diego had injuries and big ones to their star players, such as shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr, third baseman Manny Machado and pitcher Blake Snell.
This year has seen that the Padres are a good team, even without Tatis Jr (yet to start a game this season) and Machado (out with an ankle injury). They sit in second place 1.5 games behind the Dodgers and are keeping up with their pace.
The Padres are looking to be the next challengers to the Dodgers in the West, not only now, but for a number of seasons. They have increased their payroll to become the fifth most in MLB this year.
They invested heavily in their starting pitching, Snell, Yu Darvish, Mike Clevinger and Joe Musgrove, plus they gave Tatis Jr a huge contract.
President of baseball operations A.J Preller has no hesitation in sacking managers, Andy Green in 2019 and Jayce Tingler in 2021.
He went for experience for this season, attracting the Oakland Athletics’ coach Bob Melvin to work with the young and experienced stars.
The Dodgers had a little wobble, but appear now to be back on track. LA are 6-4 on their last 10 games - their last eight have been away from home - including a 2-1 series win over the Atlanta Braves, which saw an emotional Freddie Freeman return to Truist Park, following his winter move west and back home.
San Diego are 5-5 over their last 10, losing three of their last four, but won last time out against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
They will have Joe Musgrove on the mound for game one - he has never collected a win against the Dodgers in five previous starts against them.
The 29-year-old is 8-1 this season and has been the Padres’ ace. The Dodgers will have Mitch White, the 27-year-old is 1-1 this season.
Roberts spoke to the official Dodgers website about the game against the Padres: "The first two days of this series we didn't pitch well, so to get a good start from one of our guys was big.
"We still have some leverage guys ready for the San Diego series, and to get some guys on track offensively going into this next series is certainly a positive."
Mike Clevinger pitched his longest outing of the season for the Padres against the Diamondbacks last time out and felt good on the mound, he spoke to the Padres’ website: "It felt nostalgic. It felt good to finally have a feel for everything that I'm doing.
"We've got a bunch of stud arms here. It's good to have that backing. It's good to have that confidence in the guys coming in behind you and the other guys in the rotation."
The Dodgers have only lost once to the Padres in their last 11 games home and away, but the improvements from San Diego mean a split series in a decent prospect.