Though the Los Angeles Dodgers ran away with their first division title in four years last season, the rival San Francisco Giants proved to be a pesky foe. Friday's season series opener saw more of the same.
Los Angeles seeks just its second win in eight meetings Saturday when it hosts San Francisco.
The Dodgers (4-2) won the National League West in 2013 by 11 games - the largest margin by any division champion since 2011. But while the Giants finished 16 games behind them, Los Angeles was just 8-11 against San Francisco, its worst mark against an NL West foe.
That trend continued Friday, with the Giants handing the Dodgers an 8-4 loss in the season opener at Dodger Stadium. San Francisco knocked Los Angeles starter Hyun-Jin Ryu around for six runs in the first inning alone and the eight runs were the most allowed by the Dodgers in their home opener since an 11-10 loss to Atlanta in 2006.
The Giants (4-1) are off to a strong offensive start, having scored eight or more twice while talking three of four in Arizona. They're slugging .416 thus far after finishing 12th in the NL last season with a .381 slugging percentage.
Angel Pagan is batting .391 with seven RBIs, while Buster Posey is 6 for 16 and scored twice Friday.
Los Angeles' lineup saw a late change, with Yasiel Puig being scratched from an originally scheduled start in right field after he arrived late to the stadium. Matt Kemp replaced him after being activated from the disabled list and was charged with an error in the first when he bobbled Michael Morse's single. Kemp was 1 for 4 with an RBI double.
"It felt good to come back. It's been a rough 1 1/2 years for me," said Kemp, who was limited to 179 games over the last two seasons due to injuries after finishing runner-up in MVP voting in 2011.
Puig has already been under scrutiny after his baserunning blunders in the team's two-game set against Arizona in Australia was the impetus for a team meeting. He is 5 for 20 with four RBIs.
"He felt bad he wasn't here and I believe that," manager Don Mattingly said of Saturday's incident. "He's a good kid. Does he have to grow up and get better? Yeah, but there's a lot of guys like that."
Los Angeles had received strong starting pitching prior to Friday's debacle, something left-hander Paul Maholm (0-0, 0.00 ERA) will try to resume Saturday in his first start for the Dodgers. He came out of the bullpen to record an out in the club's 7-5 win over Arizona in the second of two games in Australia. He's coming off a disappointing 2013 season in which he posted a 4.41 ERA for Atlanta, his highest since 2010.
Maholm is 2-3 with a 4.06 ERA over 10 career starts against the Giants, taking a loss in each of the last two while giving up 10 runs over 9 2-3 innings.
San Francisco counters with another southpaw in Madison Bumgarner (0-0, 0.00), who didn't record a decision in Monday's 9-8 win over the Diamondbacks. He allowed four unearned runs in his fourth and final inning, which the Giants opened with two errors.
Bumgarner has stymied Los Angeles recently, going 4-1 over his last five matchups with a 1.50 ERA. Andre Ethier and Adrian Gonzalez - who hit back-to-back solo home runs in Friday's fourth inning - are a combined 5 for 44 against him with Ethier striking out nine times. Puig is 2 for 9 off Bumgarner with four strikeouts.