PUIG IS BACK FOR FUN OF IT

His joy and verve are ap­par­ent as he gets four hits. Ken­drick gets win­ning RBI.

Los Angeles Times - - SPORTS - By Bill Shaikin

It might have been his fourth game back from the dis­abled list, but Yasiel Puig was fi­nally and truly back Wed­nes­day, in all his un­bri­dled joy and out­sized glory and cover-your-eyes baserun­ning.

It might be de­bat­able whether the Dodgers might some­how be bet­ter with­out Puig. It is im­pos­si­ble for them to be more en­ter­tain­ing with­out him.

There was Puig, strik­ing a long-last­ing pose af­ter launch­ing a ma­jes­tic home run.

There was Puig, sprint­ing from right field and pump­ing his fist af­ter a leap­ing theft of a home run by cen­ter fielder Joc Ped­er­son.

There was Puig, punch­ing a ground ball up the mid­dle for a sin­gle, then tak­ing off for sec­ond base when he ap­par­ently as­sumed the throw would go to third base. It did not, but Puig so star­tled the de­fense that he made it to sec­ond base and got a dou­ble for his trou­ble.

And there was Puig, round­ing first base widely and hap­pily with a sin­gle, when a triple would have given him the cy­cle. A four-hit night, af­ter all, is pretty nice.

Puig tied his ca­reer high with those four hits, lead­ing the Dodgers to a 7-6 victory

over the Ari­zona Di­a­mond­backs on Wed­nes­day. Af­ter Puig started the ninth in­ning with a walk, Howie Ken­drick sin­gled him home with the walk-off hit that com­pleted a se­ries sweep and kept the Dodgers two games ahead of the San Fran­cisco Gi­ants in the Na­tional League West.

“Puig is the guy that did it all tonight,” Ken­drick said in an on-field in­ter­view. Puig then poured out the Ga­torade bucket on Ken­drick’s head.

The Dodgers im­proved to 25-10 at home — and 25-10 against teams with los­ing records. They are 10-15 on the road — and 10-15 against teams with win­ning records.

Of their next 14 games, 11 are against teams with win­ning records. Nine of those 14 games are on the road, start­ing Fri­day in San Diego.

“All that mat­ters is get­ting in the play­offs. Once you’re in the play­offs, you’ve got to beat the team in front of you,” Dodgers first base­man Adrian Gon­za­lez said.

Puig played 11 games be­fore a ham­string in­jury forced him onto the dis­abled list. The Dodgers led the di­vi­sion with­out him and led the league in home runs.

But he is an elec­tric pres­ence, on and off the field. He is a face of the Dodgers’ Sport­sNet LA chan­nel, newly vis­i­ble in var­i­ous cor­ri­dors of the Los An­ge­les area.

And, Manager Don Mat­tingly said, the Dodgers’ out­field depth ap­peared over­ex­posed in the fi­nal 10 or so days with­out Puig.

The Dodgers have won three of the four games Puig has started since his re­turn. In those four games, he is bat­ting .600, with nine hits in 15 at-bats.

As the Dodgers’ win­ter makeover took ef­fect, the team talked about how the of­fense might be more bal­anced but less pow­er­ful, with the loss of Matt Kemp and Han­ley Ramirez.

The Dodgers’ of­fense now ap­pears more pow­er­ful and more bal­anced. Catcher Yas­mani Gran­dal on Wed­nes­day hit his sixth home run — four more than Kemp, the man for whom he was traded.

But, with the re­turn of Puig, the Dodgers might have con­structed the most pow­er­ful top three of any ma­jor league lineup.

While Puig was gone, the Dodgers re­placed Jimmy Rollins in the lead­off spot with Ped­er­son.

Ped­er­son has 17 home runs, tied for third in the league, be­hind Bryce Harper of the Wash­ing­ton Na­tion­als and Gian­carlo Stan­ton of the Miami Mar­lins.

Adrian Gon­za­lez, bat­ting third, has 11 home runs.

Now, bat­ting be­tween them: the multidimensional Puig.

The Dodgers have played 60 games this sea­son. He has played 15. He is bat­ting .362, with a .603 slug­ging per­cent­age.

He is, to say the least, worth watch­ing.

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