And how else can you call it? Yasiel Puig was great Monday night in the Dodgers’ 2-1 win over the Padres, going 2-for-4, showing off the speed a bit by going from first to third on a single, showing the speed, muscle and discipline by working counts and taking whatever he was offered by opposing pitchers and hitting the ball to spots “where they ain’t” so to speak, flying down the line to try to beat plays at first base.
But what has everyone in Los Angeles talking about Yasiel Puig this morning isn’t any of that. What has created a buzz about Puig is “The Throw.”
With the Dodgers clinging to a 2-1 lead with one out in the Top of the 9th and closer Brandon League facing Kyle Blanks after walking Chris Denorfia, the tension in the air was thick enough to cut with a knife. League, he of 3 blown saves and an ERA over 5, has been prone to giving up homers this year, and Blanks, while only having 3 homers on the season, is known to occasionally send one into orbit. After falling behind 2-0 in the count, League threw a 95 MPH fastball a little fat on the outer half of the plate and Blanks put a hard swing on it. Dodger fans collectively held their breath as Puig tracked the ball to the warning track and got under it for a long second out.
Then Yasiel Puig took matters into his own hands.
Denorfia, apparently fooled by a decoy move by middle infielders Luis Cruz and Nick Punto who faked as if the ball had been hit on the ground for a possible game-ending double play, found himself recovering from a slide near second base when the ball was caught, and immediately began a sprint back toward first base. Puig took two steps to his left, set himself, then fired the ball to Adrian Gonzalez at first base with an authority that reminded fans of former Dodger right fielder Raul Mondesi.
The play was close, but the home plate umpire had a straight-on view of the play and called Denorfia out.
A play so good, even Andre Ethier, the man most speculated to be displaced by Puig once Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford get healthy again, ran off the field smiling larger than many Dodger fans have seen in a long, long time.
As for Puig, the Dodgers’ Twitter account had this 140-character-or-less bit from him after the game.
“Every guy here is giving everything we have every game so that we can accomplish what we want, which is to bring a championship to LA.” -Puig
Despite some questions about Puig’s maturity after an arrest for reckless driving last month, it appears that maybe Yasiel Puig is growing up before our eyes. If the energy and enthusiasm he displayed on Monday night is a sign of things to come, that coming-of-age just might be the first step in saving the Dodgers’ season.