It seems like only earlier this year when Brad Penny would win just about every start and batterymate Russell Martin would lead a balanced offensive attack and an early lead would be turned over to the bullpen, with Takashi Saito closing out another win.
After a disastrous month, the Dodgers rediscovered that formula for success in a 6-3 win over the Astros, and the All-Star trio was prominent.
Penny (14-3) recorded the first win for a Dodgers starting pitcher since his last win July 26 with a six-inning quality start. The Dodgers offense rallied behind a pair of Martin home runs and three hits from Juan Pierre. And the bullpen finished with three scoreless innings, Saito notching save No. 30.
"We know the position we've gotten ourselves into," said manager Grady Little. "Now it's up to us to get ourselves out of it."
It won't be easy. Despite this victory, they remain 6 1/2 games behind first-place Arizona and still have five teams to climb over in the Wild Card chase. The best that can be said about the net result is that they didn't lose any ground, which is about all the Dodgers have done lately while going 8-19.
"We just had to find a way as a team to get it done collectively," said Martin, who drove in three runs Wednesday after having only one RBI this month. "This feels good. It gives us a confidence boost.
"You gotta believe. We know we have a good team. It's just a matter of day in and day out, staying consistent. Today everything was working for us. We know we can play like this every day, it's just a matter of doing it. It didn't seem like anybody was pressing today. Top to bottom, everybody seemed to have the right approach."
After Penny spotted the Astros a 3-1 lead through four innings, the Dodgers rallied with three in the sixth inning and two in the seventh. Third-base coach Rich Donnelly, after waving six runners home, came through the clubhouse with a smile.
"I'm going to ice my arm," he said.
Martin provided the power with his first multi-homer game as a Major Leaguer. He has 14 for the season, one behind team leader Jeff Kent.
"I don't go up there trying to hit home runs," he said. "We got a lot of two-out hits (seven) and hits with runners in scoring position (3-for-9). We haven't done that lately (3-for-55 coming into the game). It's nice to see we can do it."
Martin entered the in an 0-for-12 slump, his average slipping below .290 for the first time since June 21. Since appearing in his first All-Star Game, he's hitting .252. Because he's started 108 of the Dodgers' 120 games, he was asked if he might be wearing down physically.
"A lot of it is learning from last year and how my body felt toward the end," he said. "This year, I'm working hard in the gym so I can still feel good, and that's what I'm doing."
Penny allowed 10 hits, but he was effective at damage control, limiting the Astros to single runs in the second, third and fourth innings. He also had the game stopped when he was distracted by Houston third-base coach Doug Mansolino, who actually stands closer to the plate than third base when he has a runner at second.
"I kept us in it close enough so our guys could come through," said Penny. "Our young guys came through."
Matt Kemp, batting third, had a single, double, stole a base and scored a run. Kemp had a key hit-and-run single following Pierre's single leading off the sixth inning with the Dodgers trailing, 3-1. James Loney hit a scoring fly ball and Martin, who homered off Jason Jennings with two outs in the second inning, slugged his two-run shot to chase Jennings with two outs in the sixth.
"We backed Penny up with some support, so it was a good all-around win tonight," said Pierre. "It's good to slap hands after a game at home. One of the few times we had it set up for the bullpen to slam the door."
With the lead, Little turned the game over to his revamped bullpen. Newly acquired Scott Proctor pitched the seventh, Jonathan Broxton the eighth and Saito the ninth. Broxton has not allowed a home run in 91 consecutive appearances, tying Paul Quantrill for the L.A. Dodgers record.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.