Yasiel Puig Benched in the Fifth Inning
In the top of the fifth inning while the action continued on the field, time actually stopped for Dodger fans. Rightfielder Yasiel Puig was pulled from the game unceremoniously in favor of Skip Schumaker.
It was a warm day with a game-time temperature of 88 degrees and rising, yet there were no medics, no wraps, no nothing. After going into the tunnel to the clubhouse, Puig emerged without his spikes. He sat on the bench closest to the railing in the sun and took in the game with no trainer or staff approaching him.
It was clear Puig's benching was not a medical issue. Once the top of the fifth inning came to a close, Nick Punto began talking to Puig in what looked like an explanation of sins. Puig began defending himself.
It became clear it was what Vin Scully said it was: a "manager's decision."
"Today is a simple decision," manager Don Mattingly explained. "At that point in the game, Skip gave us a better chance to win."
Mattingly and Puig had a postgame meeting to discuss the benching. Puig did a better job of explaining why Schumaker was the better chance to win.
"I wasn't preparing for each pitch in the outfield," Puig said. "I wanted to finish the game of course. But when they told me why, I agreed."
Puig said the meeting went well. "He explained what I have to do, to give 100 percent even if I'm tired."
Mattingly made it clear that yanking Puig out of the game was not meant to embarrass him.
"I love these guys. I love all of my players. I see the good in all of them. It's my responsibility to give us the best chance to win and make decisions based on what's best for the whole team. Today was simply a decision based on feeling like Skip giving us the best chance to win today."
I can only imagine what sorts of nonsense will be spouted in columns around the city. I can already see the ledes proclaiming Puig to be the end of baseball. I can hear the cries of some folks calling for Puig to be benched for the rest of the season.
Again it's time for a little bit of clarity. Puig had one month of minor league ball last season and two months this season. He missed an entire year of play in Cuba before fleeing the island. The mistakes we see him make, the missed cut-off guys, the over-aggressive base running, the swinging at everything in sight — all of those are minor league mistakes.
Unfortunately for the Dodgers out of necessity they had to bring a raw Puig to the Majors before he had the time to smooth out the rough edges of his game. And because the good Puig does at the plate and in the field far outweighs the negative, the Dodgers have to train him as they go along.
So there will be benchings like this. There will be missed cutoff throws. There will be wild swings. There will be third outs at third base.
"As teammates we have to be there for him," starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco said while also saying that what Puig did today was unacceptable.
Just imagine where the Dodgers would be had Puig not been called up.
All of that buried all of the excitement that the Dodgers 4-0 win over the Cubs.
*Cubs manager Dale Sveum was ejected in the first inning by first base umpire Lance Barksdale. Barksdale ruled Yasiel Puig did not swing on a 2-2 pitch. It seems Sveum objected to that, the 90-degree muggy heat or both.
*Ricky Nolasco for the first time in his career pitched consecutive eight-inning shutout games. Nolasco struck out 11 batters while giving up three hits and a walk. Maybe there is something to being a part of a rotation that includes Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke.
"Pitching and winning are contaigious," Nolasco said. "You just want to keep it going. To be in the same rotation as two guys like that is an honor."
*Hanley Ramirez opened the scoring in the first inning with a solo shot halfway up into the left field pavilion 417 feet away. Andre Ethier unleashed a homer of his own in the fourth inning into the right field bullpen.
At least Dodger fans were able to watch the game since it was on Prime Ticket. For Time Warner Cable subscribers who wanted to watch the presumptive Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw pitch last night, four words: shit out of luck. One small consolation is that they have one ally: Lori Mattingly.
"She was irritated yesterday," Mattingly recounted. "She couldn't watch the game yesterday."
Matt Kemp will be playing a rehab game tomorrow at Class-A Rancho Cucamonga.
Cubs Scorecard: (click to embiggen)
Dodgers Scorecard: (click to embiggen)