Hey Puig, Yeah You
He keeps doing it. When the Dodgers need him, Yasiel Puig continues to deliver.
"It just feels like something's going to happen everytime he gets up," Skip Schumaker said.
Tonight the Dodgers couldn't figure out Atlanta Braves starter Paul Maholm despite having scored four runs off of him on May 17 in Atlanta. Trailing 1-0 the Dodgers had only mustered two base hits and grounded into three double plays through five innings.
Up Puig came with two outs in the sixth. The first pitch from Maholm it appeared he was going to bunt for a base hit, a pitch that was called a strike. The second pitch was too juicy. Maholm threw him a curveball that hung over the middle of the plate.
What the hell did you think was going to happen? Of course Puig ate it up and sent it 385 feet into the left field pavilion seats.
"He's making you pay with power," manager Don Mattingly said after the game. "It's been storybook. It's crazy stuff every night it seems like. Nothing really surprises us anymore."
Mattingly noticed that what we're seeing from Puig is raw talent. "I don't think they've come up with a plan yet," Mattingly said of the opposing pitchers. If they're throwing him fat pitches down the heart of the plate, there hardly seems to be any plans.
Eventually pitchers will change their approach to Puig once they get ample video on him, and Puig will have to make the adjustments. That will be the key to see whether he will last. But for now, we can marvel at the statistics.
Puig's batting line: .421 batting average (8-for-19), four home runs, one double, one intentional walk, 1.105 slugging percentage, .450 on base percentage, five games. Of the four homers, each came on a different type of pitch: fastball, changeup, slider and curveball.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Puig is just the second player in the modern era to hit four homers in his first five games, Mike Jacobs of the 2005 New York Mets the only other player to do so. With 10 RBI, Puig has also tied the MLB record for most RBI through five career games.
We can go on and on with our jaws dropped.
The one person that doesn't seem stunned by any of this is Puig himself. When asked if he feels the pressure of these situations, he was as cool as a cucumber. "As long as the team is pulling it together, I'm happy to be a part of it."
I consider myself a smart person, and I'm still scratching my head on that one.
And for the second straight day Puig's exploits buried the accomplishments of the starting pitcher. Ryu Hyun-Jin pitched 7 2/3 innings giving up a lone run in the fourth inning — Freddie Freeman scored on Dan Uggla's single after leading off the inning with a double.
He fought all game long to make sure the Dodgers remained in striking distance.
"It looked like his stuff was good the whole time," Mattingly said.
It came down to the tenth inning. After Andre Ethier flew out to right field, Ramon Hernandez hit a single off of Braves reliever Anthony Varvaro. A wild pitch during Luis Cruz's at-bat sent Hernandez to second base.
Knowing that a single could score a run from second under normal circumstances, Hernandez isn't known for being fleet of foot. With Skip Schumaker and Nick Punto remaining on the bench and Tim Federowicz able to back up Hernandez behind the plate, Mattingly opted not to pinch run for Hernandez at that moment.
"I didn't really want to," Mattingly admitted. "I don't know how long the game is going to go." He did admit to thinking about using Clayton Kershaw to avoid using the position players but thought it was too much of a gamble.
Cruz grounded a single to left field, and Hernandez held up at third. It was at that point that Mattingly decided to use Schumaker to pinch run for Hernandez.
"One he gets to third I thought it's a better gamble, and we've got a better shot there," Mattingly said.
So with Juan Uribe at the plate, everything pointed towards an 11th inning. But you can never assume with a reliever who entered a game in early June with five wild pitches. Despite adding one to that total earlier, Varvaro obliged once more sending Schumaker to score.
And there it was, the Dodgers first walk-off of the season, a 2-1 victory.
"I was hoping for a long fly ball and cruise in so I didn't have to get shredded," Schumaker joked.
No matter the inability to hit, some questionable decisions, Puig seems to transcend it all. "He's brought energy," Mattingly told us before the game. "But that kind of energy is good for older guys. It's fun to watch. It reminds you of when you started playing."
The Dodgers are now 4-1 since Puig arrived on Monday. At 27-33 they're still in last place in the division, 7 1/2 game behind division leading Arizona Diamondbacks. But they have just taken two games against the best team in the NL East and continue to look to turn things around.