Thursday, June 20, 2013
Is the Summer of Puig nothing more than that?
By Mark Saxon
As entertaining as their phenom right fielder has been these past few weeks, the Los Angeles Dodgers don't want to turn the rest of their season into Yasiel Puig's Wild West Show. But aside from a team scrambling to get out of last place, is there much else worth watching?
Puig hit another one of those big opposite-field home runs on the first pitch he saw Thursday, but this time the Dodgers couldn't ride it to a win, losing 6-3 to the San Diego Padres at Petco Park.
The Dodgers showed a little late fight, getting the tying run to the plate in the ninth against Huston Street, but Skip Schumaker hit into a deflating double play and Puig struck out for the final out.
The Dodgers have issues at the back of their bullpen, but the middle is even softer. Matt Guerrier used to be a reliable, durable setup man, but he's not that guy anymore after last year's major elbow injury. Guerrier came into a 2-all game to start the seventh inning and gave up a double and triple to the Padres' Nos. 7 and 8 hitters, Yasmani Grandal and Pedro Ciriaco.
Ciriaco, the Padres' backup shortstop, later put it away with a two-run shot off Peter Moylan.
The loss would have been uglier, but Adrian Gonzalez made a brilliant defensive play, shoveling the ball with his glove to A.J. Ellis to get Ciriaco at the plate on a bunt down the first-base line. But the Padres added a two-out run on Chase Headley's single to center against Paco Rodriguez.
Even as Puig continues his historically torrid start, you have to wonder what pitchers are thinking in the way they approach him. His home run off Jason Marquis in the first inning was high and out over the plate. Four of Puig's six home runs have been to the opposite field.
Why do they continue to throw him anything near the plate on the first pitch? According to ESPN Stats & Info, he's batting .857 on the first pitch of his at-bats this season.
Marquis later toyed with Puig, striking him out twice, including on a curveball in the dirt. Give Puig some credit for accountability. He didn't take it out on the bat. Puig gave his bat a tender kiss on the way back to the dugout after his fifth-inning strikeout.
One statistical trend came to a crashing halt. Entering Thursday, the Dodgers had been 4-0 in games in which Puig had homered.
Puig has gotten most of the coverage, but no Dodger has been a tougher out lately than Hanley Ramirez. He followed up a 6-for-8 doubleheader in New York by picking up two more hits. Ramirez, the cleanup hitter at least until Matt Kemp returns, is batting .381, although he has spent the vast majority of the season on the disabled list because of wrist and hamstring issues.