He rescued the Los Angeles Dodgers once, in early June, and on Monday night he helped do it again.
Yasiel Puig shook off an 0-for-11 yoke (with seven strikeouts) and tripled to drive in the Dodgers’ second run Monday night, as L.A. beat the St. Louis Cardinals 3-0 in the National League Championship Series. The Dodgers trail the Cardinals 2-1, with Game 4 at 8:07 p.m. EDT tonight.
It was a very Puiglike performance. Just as he had all summer since being called up with the Dodgers teetering and Manager Don Mattingly on the hot seat, he had a clutch hit as well as a head-shaking moment of what charitably might be called overexuberance.
“I noticed in St. Louis I was trying too hard,” Puig, who’d been whiffing badly in the first two games of the series, said through his translator. “Something my teammates and I talked about. Coming here I focused on staying calm and doing the best I could, especially against such a great pitcher that they have. Thanks to God, everything went well.”
His demeanor, as it was at times over the summer, was another matter. After clobbering the ball, he flipped his bat and celebrated a home run — and then the ball hit the wall and he took off running. He began clapping before chugging into third and reached to the sky when he hit the base.
“He’s just playing with passion,” Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said.
But, as Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times wrote, “the play sparked another chapter in the running debate about whether Puig simply plays with flair, or whether his actions disrespect the other team.”
The Cardinals had little room to complain.
“As a player, I think he doesn’t know,” outfielder Carlos Beltran told the Times. “I think he still thinks he’s playing somewhere else. He has a lot of passion, no doubt about that, a lot of talent. I think with time he will learn that sometimes you have to be a little more calm, not only with not showing up the other team, but with the umpires, and the way he plays the game.”
Adrian Gonzalez was doing some jubilating of his own after reaching base on a double, but that was lost on Cardinals starter (and loser) Adam Wainwright. “I didn’t see Puig’s reaction,” he said (via Pedro Moura of the Orange County Register). “I saw Adrian doing some Mickey Mouse stuff at second, but I didn’t see Puig.”
About that, Gonzalez had the perfect response: “We’re in L.A.”
ALCS Game 3, Boston at Detroit, 4 p.m., Fox, WSPZ (570 AM)
NLCS Game 4, St. Louis at Los Angeles, 8 p.m., TBS, WTEM (980 AM)