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Saturday, August 3, 2013
The Puig conundrum: Should he tone it down?

By Mark Saxon

 

Yasiel Puig’s go-for-broke style was exactly what the Los Angeles Dodgers needed to ignite their potential back in June. Now, you wonder if it’s the only thing that can slow them down in August.

Puig somehow avoided injury after flying into the side wall at Wrigley Field, after he nearly made a circus catch, early in Dodgers' 3-0 win over the Chicago Cubs on Saturday. Apparently, 97-year-old stadiums weren’t built with the idea of saving 245-pound outfielders from themselves.

Puig actually caught the ball after it caromed off the wall, but it was, correctly, ruled a non-catch after a brief conference among the umpires.

Another Puig moment could prove more costly. He made a diving catch to save a run in the seventh inning and exited shortly thereafter with a left wrist injury. It’s not known how severe the injury is, but, at some point, Puig’s reckless style is sure to knock him out of action for a period of time. The Dodgers have yet to find out if they can keep up this smoldering pace without their rookie catalyst.

Saturday was the Dodgers’ 13th straight road win, which sets a new franchise record. The last team to win this many games on the road was the 1976 Philadelphia Phillies. The Dodgers are four shy of the baseball record, set by the 1916 New York Giants.

The road streak is more of a sign of the Dodgers’ hot play than the encapsulation of it. Here’s the bigger picture: It took the Dodgers 72 games to win their first 30 games. It has taken them 37 games to win their next 30.

Of all the factors -- and there have been plenty -- that have changed since June 22, Puig’s impact might be the most salient.

After a brief cold snap, Puig is back to pumping life into this team day after day. He created a lot of the action with his legs Saturday, getting on base with a couple of infield hits and a walk and scoring one of the Dodgers’ three runs.

Puig's style is certainly fun to watch. It has brought some NFL-style action and adventure to this baseball season. But it also is sure to take a toll on his body. He wastes throws from the outfield, slinging balls to bases when he has no chance of getting an out. He dives unnecessarily at times.

And then there are other times when his bravado is exactly what the situation calls for.

Starlin Castro hit a sinking line drive and Puig landed on his wrist while making the diving catch. He held onto the ball and finished the inning but was replaced the next inning. Puig has worn a protective brace on that wrist since a headfirst dive into first base on June 8.