Puig Sparks Dodgers’ Sudden Burst Of Success
Dodger Stadium resounded with chants of fans calling out “MVPuig” as the final game of the seven-game homestand came to a close on Sunday against the Phillies with another Dodger victory.
The Dodgers won eight out of nine games through Sunday to pull within four of the first-place Diamondbacks in the mediocre NL West.
Cuban rookie-sensation-right-fielder Yasiel Puig fell short of hitting for the cycle that day. His last at-bat in the eighth inning, he swung for the fences but ended up with a strikeout, finishing the game 4-for-5 with two singles, a double, a triple, two steals and two runs scored.
“I went for the cycle but it didn’t happen,” Puig said after the game.
Puig, 22, set the record for the most hits in a calendar month for a Los Angeles Dodger rookie, breaking Steve Sax’s 1983 team record. In addition, his 44 hits are the second-most all-time for a player in their first career month behind only Joe DiMaggio (48 in May 1936). It was also Puig’s seventh game with three or more hits in 27 career contests.
When I asked him – through his interpreter – how much of his talent is G-d-given and how much is learned from his coaches, he said “it’s all G-d-given.”
Puig made his major league debut on June 3 and in his first at-bat he singled to left-center off of Eric Stults of the Padres. In his second game against the Padres he hit two home runs, doubled and drove in five runs and became the first Dodger ever to have a multi-homer game in one of his first two appearances.
He continued to smash through other records by becoming the second player in the modern era to hit four home runs in his first five games and his 10 RBI tied the major league record for most RBI in the first five games of a career. He was also named the NL Player of the Week for the week of June 3-9.
Puig had 27 hits in his first 15 games, also tied with Joe DiMaggio (1936) and Terry Pendleton (1984) for second most all-time behind Irv Waldron (1901) and Bo Hart (2003) with 28. And then went on to become the first player in major league history to record at least 34 hits and seven home runs in his first 20 games and set Dodger records for most hits and total bases through 20 games.
Dodger manager Don Mattingly is impressed by Puig’s performance.
“He has a body like Bo Jackson and hits the ball anywhere with power like Vlade Guerrero. His energy is contagious.”
Center-fielder Matt Kemp agrees with Mattingly and also addresses the debate about whether Puig should represent the NL in the All-Star Game, even though he only has one month in the big leagues.
“He’s not lucky when he hits the ball. He drives the ball to all fields,” Kemp said. “The way he’s been playing, I think he’d bring a lot of excitement to the All-Star Game. I think people would enjoy seeing what this kid is doing, because it’s pretty amazing.”
“Nobody’s going to the bathroom or taking a break to cool off in the clubhouse when he comes up, that’s for sure,” Dodger catcher A.J. Ellis said. “He’s pretty special, and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. He’s definitely changed this clubhouse, changed the culture.”
As Puig continues to cycle through the league and he becomes more familiar, teams are most likely going to start making adjustments after looking at film. They’ll start to figure out what counts and what pitches he may struggle with or have less success with. And then he’ll have to readjust his game.