Yasiel Puig had a bad day Monday.
It began in a Miami beach club where a standard shot of liquor costs double figures, a place where Puig or Willy Beamon would go to blend in among Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford and LeBron James. Maybe DeMarcus Cousins, too. Puig looked like he was having a good time in this video, but one has to wonder if he woke up on the right side of the bed in the morning.
Puig gave a press conference to Spanish-speaking reporters, reportedly without incident, but also lobbied an obscenity in the direction of the media in the Dodgers’ clubhouse. Or not. (If you follow the Twitter timeline of the reporter who tweeted the obscenity, you’ll uncover some good reasons to question the validity of the translation — namely, it wasn’t his own translation. It’s a safe bet that Puig was pissed about the TMZ report.)
Whatever the 22-year-old phenom said, however he said it, it was another moment that the Dodgers must confront. There have been a few such moments the last 10 weeks, and there would be more Monday. Maybe this one forces the team to re-evaluate where it draws the line with its young superstar. Puig has previously stated his disdain for the media and teammates have intervened to help Puig navigate the process. At least Monday, he answered three questions after the game.
In the past, Puig has always bounced back and separated his off-the-field foibles from his on-the-field performance. On Monday, Puig performed miserably. He finished 0 for 5 with two strikeouts against countryman Jose Fernandez and nearly got himself ejected by home-plate umpire John Hirschbeck after striking out in an important situation in the fifth inning. It’s intellectually lazy to say that Puig’s poor performance was the result of a late night out in the clubs, but fans might make the leap anyway. Play hard, yell at the media, yell at the umpire — that’s your own business if you go 5 for 5. Go 0 for 5, it becomes the fans’ business. At most, fair or not, Puig has opened himself up to questions about his commitment. At least, he failed to give the running discourse about his maturity a badly needed day off.
Unlike Sunday, when Puig missed another cutoff man and got picked off first base, the Dodgers had their full lineup intact Monday against Fernandez. And Puig wasn’t the only Dodger left feeling miserable.
When Fernandez was pulled after seven innings in a 2-2 game, Juan Uribe was 3 for 3. The rest of the lineup was 1 for 20. Uribe has raised his batting average from .251 on August 8 to .281 today.
Hyun-Jin Ryu was impressive, giving up six hits and three earned runs in 7 ⅓ innings. But the hits came in bunches: Three straight hits (all on fastballs that caught too much of the plate) in the third inning, and three straight hits in the sixth inning (on three different pitches) in the sixth. That made in the difference in the game.
When the bullpen allowed three more runs across the plate in the eighth inning, it sealed the Dodgers’ fate, and capped a very un-Dodger-like loss. The Dodgers hadn’t lost on consecutive days since June 20 and 21, and they had outscored the Marlins 16-9 in a three-game series in May.
But Fernandez was the kind of pitcher the Dodgers — and most teams — have lost to in the past. Perhaps it was asking too much of Ryu to outduel Matt Harvey and Fernandez in consecutive outings. That doesn’t make Ryu a lousy rookie, it makes him human, which we all knew about.
The way the rookies dominated the spotlight Monday, it’s easy to forget that the Dodgers are a veteran club that knows how to bounce back from consecutive losses.
But this will be a new test of Puig’s ability to bounce back. He didn’t bounce back well from the fifth-inning strikeout and subsequent argument with Hirschbeck — in his next at-bat, Puig struck out on three pitches against A.J. Ramos. Ramos gave him soft stuff away, following a formula that’s worked against Puig in the past. It was another teachable moment, and Don Mattingly acknowledged in his postgame press conference that the biggest lessons are a review of those from Philadelphia.
When the lesson is about being calm on the field and responsible off it — not a caution against warning-track throws to home plate or taking two bases on a grounder up the middle — it’s harder to claim that Puig’s unpredictability makes him more fun to watch. Monday was a really bad day.
A few bullet points:
• The box score is here.
• J.P. Howell‘s streak of scoreless outings was snapped at 10. He allowed two runs in one-third of an inning.
• Brian Wilson didn’t get into the game, adding to the likelihood that he’ll be the first right-hander out of the bullpen tomorrow.