Sunday, April 20, 2014

Yasiel Puig: The Total Package

If you're Josh Collmenter, walking Adrian Gonzalez intentionally is probably a smart move.

Throwing a fastball right down the middle of the plate to Yasiel Puig right after is not.

And so, with the Dodgers trying to build on a one-run lead, Puig lined a three-run shot out to left center, and they never looked back in beating the Diamondbacks 4-1.  I'm sure the DBacks are really looking foward to playing the Dodgers again in about a month considering they're 1-7 against their NL West counterparts.  Yuck.

Puig got the start in the #5 hole one day after sitting out, his fourth DNP of the year.  He was in the lineup on Friday and took three walks, but also three strikeouts.  That dropped his average to .235 with only one homer and five RBIs.  So, it was obvious that he was scuffling in the early part of the season.

Maybe watching A-Gon get walked so someone could pitch to him was just what he needed to wake up.  With two down and an 0-1 count, Puig shortened his swing a bit, and still drove it 409 feet for the three-run tater.  Granted the pitch was right down the middle, but the relaxed, composed approach paid off dividends.  Hopefully that's something he learns from and keeps trying to do.

The other side of his game was also on display, hence the headline of "The Total Package."  Miguel Montero singled to right leading off the second, and as he went to second for what looked like a sure fire double, Puig sprinted to his left, took the grounder, and fired into second on a perfect strike, nailing him.  Another reminder of just how incredible this guy's arm and athleticism is.

I can only imagine what Puig is going through right now every time he arrives at the ballpark.  ESPN has certainly made his life much more scrutinized thanks to their fascination with his defection from Cuba.  Couple that with his less than productive start to the season, a far cry from how he started his Dodger tenure last year, and that's got to be a lot of stress.

So, it's great to see him have such a great game on Easter Sunday.  One throw and one swing is all he needed to help the Dodgers win and stay in first place.  That's how good he is.  I've been a big proponent of hitting him up in the order, but if he shows an ability to adjust his swing like he did today, but hitting in the heart of the lineup will lead to some big RBIs.

Other thoughts from the game:

* Lots of credit goes to Josh Beckett.  He's one of a handful of Dodgers battling the cold/flu bug, but still threw shutout ball through five innings, striking out seven.  It ended up being his third straight no-decision to open the year, but that's not his fault.  His last two outings have been 10 innings, no runs.  He'll get bumped down to the #5 spot when Clayton Kershaw returns, so those are some awesome numbers for that role.

* The bullpen had some potentially shaky moments, with Jamey Wright, Chris Perez, and J.P. Howell getting into some deep counts.  But, only Wright was charged with a run, as Perez stranded two in the seventh with two strikeouts.  Howell got Paul Goldschmidt to ground into a forceout to end the eighth.  Nicely done.

* Also nicely done was Kenley Jansen, who mowed through the ninth by striking out the side on only 11 pitches.  Fastball, cutter, and OFF SPEED pitches did the trick.  That's the mixture I love to see.

* Someone might want to tell Tim Federowicz that Goldschmidt already swings hard enough, so two straight games of catcher's interference probably isn't the smartest way to stay healthy.  Geez.

* Hanley Ramirez claims his hand is OK after leaving Wednesday's game, but he's only 1-for-12 since then.  Maybe it's just a coincidence, but the ball definitely isn't jumping off his bat, and he's down to .246.  Let's hope there's nothing to it, and he's ready for a big series against the Phillies.

Indeed, it will be the Phillies coming to Dodger Stadium for four starting on Monday.  Unfortunately, that also means three straight days of Cliff Lee, A.J. Burnett, and the returning Cole Hamels.  After Paul Maholm goes on Monday, the Dodgers send out Hyun-Jin Ryu, Zack Greinke, and Dan Haren.  Add it all up, and this will be a fun series to watch.  Just maybe not for the hitters.

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