PUIG IS BACK FOR FUN OF IT
His joy and verve are apparent as he gets four hits. Kendrick gets winning RBI.
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.