So really, honestly, this time it could be different? This time a Dodgers team finally approaching full strength and buoyed by the arrival of phenom Yasiel Puig could actually be readying a real run?
There were signs again Monday night that it could be within reach, the Dodgers using a home run and two runs batted in from Puig to edge the Giants, 3-1, giving L.A. its first three-game winning streak since the opening week of the season.
The Dodgers have experienced plenty of false starts through the first half of their season, but Monday’s victory was significant on a couple of other fronts.
The Dodgers had lost five consecutive games to the Giants. And their timing in this three-game series could be fortuitous. With the loss, the Giants have dropped seven of their last 10 games and have fallen to .500 for the first time since April 7.
The score was tied 1-1 before the Dodgers pushed across a pair of decisive runs in the eighth.
Nick Punto started the rally with a double to right. San Francisco left-hander Madison Bumgarner then fielded a sacrifice bunt by Mark Ellis but fired high to pull Marco Scutaro off the bag at first for an error.
That brought up Puig, who had already homered and singled off Bumgarner. The Giants went to reliever George Kontos and brought the infield in. Playing up with the powerful Puig at the plate has to be a tad unnerving for an infielder.
Puig lined a hit past diving shortstop Brandon Crawford and into left field to drive in the go-head run. The Dodgers added an insurance run on a hard-hit out by Hanley Ramirez, whose line drive went off Crawford's glove and bounced far enough from the shortstop for Ellis to race home from third.
The action came early Monday, just not often.
Puig – who else? – did the Dodgers’ early damage, driving a 1-1 Bumgarner pitch to the opposite field, the ball curling inside the right-field foul pole and into the seats for his seventh home run of the season. That’s seven in just 20 games.
The Giants got the run back in the second after Hunter Pence singled. Pence was erased on Joaquin Arias' bouncer, but Arias scored when Andres Torres doubled into the left-field corner.
Arias scored without a play at the plate after left fielder Jerry Hairston Jr. bobbled the ball briefly as he tried to pick it up. Arias, however, strained his hamstring running the bases and had to leave the game.
Hyun-Jin Ryu started for the Dodgers and was less than sharp, laboring through almost every inning.
The Giants threatened in the fifth after Buster Posey walked and Pence singled. Pablo Sandoval then lined a single to center and third-base coach Tim Flannery waved Posey home.
Andre Ethier cleanly came up with the ball and would have had a play at the plate, but Posey slipped and fell rounding third and had to scramble back to the bag ahead of Ethier's redirected throw. Ryu then got Crawford, who had entered the game for Arias, to hit a comebacker, starting an inning-ending double play.
Ryu left with two outs in the seventh after Puig retreated to the wall in right, camped under a fly ball hit by Posey, then simply failed to catch it. At first the play was ruled an error, but then the official scorer changed it to a double. The ball appeared to miss Puig’s glove.
Ronald Belisario came on for Ryu and struck out Pence with a 95-mph fastball.
Ryu allowed only one run, but he made it interesting. In his 6 2/3 innings, he gave up eight hits and four walks. He retired the side in order in only one inning.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, were getting nowhere with Bumgarner. After the Puig home run, the left-hander took complete control. He did not allow another hit until Puig singled with two outs in the sixth. Bumgarner retired 11 consecutive Dodgers until Puig lined his hit into right.