The precocious rookie also changed the narrative on an eventful 48 hours in Miami.
In contrast to Puig’s last two games, Tuesday’s performance was hardly a whirlwind: He played four defensive innings and saw two pitches. It was a minimalist performance that commanded a maximum of attention, the artistic opposite of the $2.5 million orgy of cartoon flamingos and marlins beyond the center-field fence.
The first pitch Puig saw was a 90-mph Dan Jennings fastball at the knees in the eighth inning. The rookie reached out and clubbed the ball a mile high and an estimated 390 feet away to left-center field, turning a 4-4 tie into a 5-4 lead that the Dodgers didn’t relinquish. See for yourself: Puig’s 12th career home run made him fun to watch again.
You had to wonder when that moment would arrive after manager Don Mattingly left Puig out of his starting lineup. That’s only happened six times since Puig was recalled from the minors on June 3, a span of 69 games. To summarize the multiple reports out of Miami: Puig is staying at the Miami home he shares with his family, so he didn’t bus to Marlins Park with his teammates. Traffic was hairy and Puig arrived well after the second of the Dodgers’ two team buses, about 35 minutes before position players were scheduled to stretch. Mattingly fined Puig for arriving after the second bus, as is custom. The decision to bench Puig was made much earlier in the day.
It was a short day off. Puig entered the game as a defensive replacement in the sixth inning, an inning that lasted roughly 50 minutes and began with Brandon League allowing back-to-back singles to tie the game at 4.
Starter Chris Capuano was removed after throwing just 81 pitches through five innings. He allowed six hits, three runs, walked one and struck out another. The left-hander should have been in line for the win, were it not for four double plays turned by the Marlins and a 4-for-17 performance by the Dodgers with runners in scoring position.
Six Dodgers had at least two hits, though they came at inopportune times. With their two-game losing streak over, the Dodgers have a chance to improve to 14-0-4 in their last 18 series by beating former teammate Nathan Eovaldi tomorrow. Maybe a week from now we’ll be talking about the best two-month stretches in major league history again.
For now, we’re talking about Puig. Still.
A few more bullet points:
• The box score is here.
• Hanley Ramirez‘s ninth-inning double snapped an 0 for 8 streak in the series, and an 0 for 18 streak against the Marlins that dated to last August.