April 14, 2024

After the hysteria of home-opening weekend, one that culminated with Sunday’s dramatic win against the St. Louis Cardinals, the Dodgers’ performance Monday night felt much more like a routine, weekday work shift.

There was little flash. Not much pizzazz. But, behind a scoreless five-inning start from James Paxton and back-breaking three-run home run from Teoscar Hernández in the sixth, there was plenty of substance in an 8-3 win over the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium.

Paxton epitomized the victory in his team debut, working in and out of trouble to help the Dodgers (5-2) protect an early lead.

Signed to an incentive-laden $7 million deal this offseason, Paxton put nine runners on base in his 97-pitch outing (four hits, five walks). He retired the side in order only once, letting runners reach scoring position in three of the other four innings.

However, the veteran left-hander never cracked, not even with the bases loaded following a pair of two-out walks in the fifth.

Instead, Paxton stranded eight runners while holding the Giants (2-3) hitless in four at-bats with runners in scoring position. He racked up five strikeouts with a heavy dose of four-seam fastballs, which accounted for 70% of his pitches. And in the most pivotal moment of the game, he extinguished the fifth-inning threat by inducing a soft groundout from Wilmer Flores.

Dodgers shortstop Mookie Betts races around the bases on his way to a triple.

Dodgers shortstop Mookie Betts races around the bases on his way to a triple in the first inning against the Giants on Monday.

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers gave Paxton some early support, manufacturing one run in the first on a Mookie Betts triple and Shohei Ohtani groundout, then two more in the third after Betts walked, Ohtani doubled, Freddie Freeman hit an RBI single and Will Smith added a sacrifice fly.

It wasn’t until the sixth, when the Giants cut the lead to 3-1, that Hernández put the game out of reach, launching a hanging side-arm slider from San Francisco reliever Tyler Rogers deep into the left-field pavilion.

The home run was Hernández’s fourth of the season — all of them have come in the last four games — tying him with Betts for the early major league lead.

Betts, who kept his batting average above .500 with a two-for-three performance Monday, helped the Dodgers pile on in the seventh, sparking a three-run rally with his second double of the night.

Freeman, who had a team-high three hits, and Smith, whose batting average is sitting exactly at .500, added their second RBIs of the night in the seventh, as well — effectively clocking the team out as they wrapped up a fourth win in their last five games.

Teoscar Hernández points skyward after hitting a three-run home run off Giants relief pitcher Tyler Rogers.

Teoscar Hernández points skyward after hitting a three-run home run off Giants relief pitcher Tyler Rogers in the sixth inning Monday.

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

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