Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Hanley, Adrian finally join Puig Show
By Mark Saxon
LOS ANGELES -- Yasiel Puig was all over the place once again. He was behind the plate to catch the ceremonial pitch from his mother, Maritza, before the game. His likeness was in the hands and bags of the 50,000-plus people who jammed into Dodger Stadium for his bobblehead night.
Hanley Ramirez had a key double in the Dodgers' win over Miami on Tuesday, something the team hopes it continues to see a lot more of.
He dove for a ball in the gap and just missed it. He got up and the next batter hit a line drive to him. With the Los Angeles Dodgers leading by six runs, he heaved a ball from deep right field trying to throw out Garrett Jones at the plate. It would have been a routine sacrifice fly to just about any other right fielder.
What's amazing is that he almost got him.
"Nobody else even tries to make that throw, really," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.
Puig hit another laser into the gap and drove in another run during the Dodgers' 7-1 win over the Miami Marlins at Dodger Stadium.
So, yeah, the Dodgers and their crowds are getting plenty of energy from their seemingly endless well of it these days. It is, of course, reminiscent of last June when Puig rescued the Dodgers from their doldrums, a far more dire situation than the one they're in now.
What the Dodgers haven't been getting lately is consistent production from the men who hit behind Puig in the lineup and it has been thwarting much of his impact. If you think back to last June, it was really the combination of Puig's arrival and Hanley Ramirez's return from the disabled list that ignited this team's run to the playoffs, though Puig collected the lion's share of the credit.
Entering Tuesday, Adrian Gonzalez and Ramirez had been disturbingly unproductive for weeks.
The Dodgers' Nos. 3 and 4 hitters combined were 6-for-39 (.154) with only three RBIs on this homestand. Gonzalez, the team's metronomic run producer for April, had driven in only three runs and had one extra-base hit in May.
Gonzalez had a 1.021 OPS in April and a .463 OPS in May.
Ask him about his struggles, though, and he becomes defiant. If he's frustrated about anything, it might be the fact that he has hit so many sharp one-hoppers to a second baseman standing in shallow right field as teams have been overshifting him to death.
"I looked it up the other day. In April, I hit 46 percent of my balls hard and, in May, I've hit 44 percent of my balls hard. So, does that sound like a slump to you?" Gonzalez said. "I'm not going to get frustrated if I'm swinging the bat well. I don't look at stats. Stats don't mean anything to me."
On Tuesday, everything was finally in sync for one rare big inning, produced by the team's most dangerous bats. It was so definitive, it actually earned Josh Beckett a win, something that had been a long time coming. Beckett won for the first time since September 2012, finally rewarded for his strong pitching.
After Dee Gordon sprinted to second base on something that looked a lot like a routine single to right field, Puig walked on four pitches. The way Ramirez and Gonzalez had been going, you could have debated the merits of Puig's selectivity at that moment, but this time they came through. Ramirez ripped a double into the left-field corner and Gonzalez pulled one down the right-field line. The Dodgers bunched three straight RBI hits to knock Jacob Turner out of the game in the sixth inning, scoring as many as five runs in an inning for only the second time this season.
Mattingly sounded unconcerned about the struggles of his meat-of-the-order bats, though at times he admits Ramirez's swing has gotten too big, perhaps because he's trying too hard, and Gonzalez had cooled off in recent games.
But at some point -- and maybe Tuesday was that point -- somebody is going to have to take the baton from Puig to keep this offense chugging forward, because nobody stays hot forever. But there is also the flip side to that. With talents like Gonzalez's and Ramirez's, you're not going to keep them down forever.