News Column

Rookie Phenom Electrifies Dodgers

June 5, 2013

Only two games into his major league career, Yasiel Puig already managed to do something no player has done since Manny Ramirez.

Puig has transformed the feel of Dodger Stadium.

Puig hit his first two home runs in the Dodgers' 9-7 victory over the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night, both of them the kind of blasts that will undoubtedly become increasingly majestic every time one of the 37,544 witnesses recounts them.

The first, a three-run drive in the fifth inning against starter Clayton Richard, scaled halfway up the left-field pavilion and traveled an estimated 439 feet, making it the farthest-hit ball at Dodger Stadium this season. The next, a two-run shot an inning later against Tyson Ross, was a line drive to right field.

He also doubled in the first inning.

"Not bad, huh?" Manager Don Mattingly said.

The 22-year-old Cuban defector became the first player in franchise history to have a multi-home run game in one of his first two big league games, reducing Hanley Ramirez's return from the disabled list to a mere footnote and almost single-handedly lifting the last-place Dodgers to victory.

Puig's historic and crowd-rousing performance followed a major league debut in which he recorded the final out by doubling off Chris Denorfia at first base with a throw from the warning track.

Puig made two curtain calls, one after each home run. The Dodgers dugout, where frustration has festered this year, was buzzing.

"When you do the things he's doing, you create excitement," Mattingly said.

Ted Lilly, who was spared a defeat by Puig's heroics, praised the newcomer.

"There's an aggressiveness to the way he goes about playing baseball," Lilly said. "Certainly, the results are attractive, but I like the mindset. He's up there with the intent to do damage."

Because of Puig, the last-place Dodgers were able to overcome the very problems that have crippled them for most of the season.

Their rotation has some weak links, evidenced by how Lilly was tagged for five runs and six hits in four-plus innings. Their bullpen remains a concern, as Ronald Belisario blew another lead when he gave up a run in the sixth inning. The defense looks as shaky.

Puig himself wasn't infallible.

He led off the game with a double and reached third base on a groundout by Mark Ellis.

With Adrian Gonzalez at the plate, the Padres played their infield back, essentially conceding a run. But when Gonzalez hit a ground ball to second baseman Jedd Gyorko, Puig hesitated to run home, costing the Dodgers a run.

Puig was charged with an error in the fourth inning when he overthrew third base and allowed a run to score.

"There are going to be some growing pains now and then," Mattingly said. "The other side of it is really, really good."

The Dodgers saw the other side in the bottom of the fifth inning, which they entered trailing, 5-2. Puig's three-run home run tied the score, 5-5. Ramirez hit a sacrifice fly later in the inning to put the Dodgers ahead, 6-5.

Belisario gave up the tying run the next inning, but the Dodgers responded immediately. Luis Cruz doubled in Skip Schumaker to reclaim the lead, 7-6.

Puig's two-run home run followed.

"Those were two impressive home runs there," Mattingly said. "We saw a little bit of everything the kid can do. Power both ways. He's fun to watch."

If anyone didn't sound impressed, it was Puig, who is batting .625 through two games.

"I'm just happy to be here," he said.



Source: (c)2013 the Los Angeles Times Distributed by MCT Information Services


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