To slightly mis-quote Red Barber, Oh-ho-ho Doctor! Puig Walks Off! Dodgers 1, Reds 0 (11 innings)

Yasiel Puig is making headlines again, his walk-off home run in the 11th inning against the Cincinnati Reds just the latest in a line of highlight reel hits and plays that the young Cuban has put together since coming to the Dodgers at the beginning of June. (Image source: Los Angeles Times at http://www.trbimg.com/img-51f5b2ff/turbine/lat-puig-wre0010647484-20130728/600)

Yasiel Puig was having a day to forget.  He got picked off first base after drawing a leadoff walk in his third at bat.  He struck out three times, including in the ninth inning with Mark Ellis on base.  He did make a solid outfield throw to keep Joey Votto on second  and help keep the game scoreless, but July 28th, 2013 looked like a day to forget for the Cuban phenom.

As it turned out, the man who’s begun to take on the nickname “The Wild Horse” for how he plays the game of baseball with reckless abandon, was born for games like these, and the Cincinnati Reds learned the hard way that if you let a Wild Horse run wild enough, eventually he’ll run right through you.

So it should not be a surprise that when Yasiel Puig took to the batters box with two out in the bottom of the 11th of a 0-0 tie with a chance to put the Cincinnati Reds away, he finally got Cincinnati’s number in a big way.  With an 0-1 count, Curtis Partch threw Puig an 86 MPH change up.  The ball hung up just a hair too long and Puig’s eyes lit up.

Puig started his swing with the pitch halfway to the plate, cutting through the air with the ferocity of a mad man.  The ball stood no chance.  It was gone before he even made contact.  The inevitable 430 or so foot flight that the ball took halfway up the Left Field Pavilion was almost an afterthought as it sailed through the mid-afternoon Los Angeles sky.  Puig extended both arms overhead in triumph.  There was never a doubt that the ball was crushed.  The young Cuban bounded around the bases, the Dodgers cleared out of the dugout, and Puig slid (yes, slid!) home with an entire throng of his teammates surrounding home plate to celebrate the Dodgers’ 1-0 victory.

Just when you think Puig is moving toward mortality, he does something that makes the jaw drop.  Just when you think he’s going to have a bad day, he does that one thing that makes the difference between victory and defeat.  There have been some great rookies in the history of this game, and it’s far too early to talk about Yasiel Puig as a definitive superstar or as a Hall of Famer.  But rarely has any player had a first two months of a career nearly as special as the two months that we have seen out of Puig.  People will point at Mike Trout’s 2012 season, but as spectacular as Trout was, and he is truly a spectacular young ballplayer, his presence didn’t seem to spur the same frenzy within his entire team that Puig’s has.  Fernando Valenzuela comes to mind, certainly.  But that was 32 years ago, and just further shows that these sorts of starts are rare, indeed.

There’s not much of a scoring recap to talk about today, but plenty of pitching feats.  Both the Dodgers and the Reds got stellar pitching outings from their starting pitchers and tremendous relief out of their bullpen.  This was a true pitchers’ duel, with Chris Capuano going 6 2/3 innings, giving up no runs and three hits, striking out four and walking none while throwing 83 pitches, his second consecutive scoreless start at Dodger Stadium.  Meanwhile, Tony Cingrani was downright brilliant for the Reds.  In seven innings of work, Cingrani gave up only one hit and one walk, didn’t allow a run and struck out eleven Dodgers.

The Reds struck out a total of 20 Dodgers over the 11 innings played, a franchise record by Dodger batters, but the Reds bats were stifled as well.  The Dodgers managed only five total hits in 10 2/3 innings, including Puig’s home run, while the Reds managed a mere 4.  The closest the Reds would get to scoring was in the top of the sixth.  Desmond Mesoraco doubled, took third on a sacrifice bunt, but then was cut down in a rundown between third and home when Derrick Robinson hit a fielders choice grounder to third.

The winning pitcher was Brandon League, who picks up a third consecutive win in his last three outings, going two innings to improve to 6-3 on the season.  The loser was Curtis Partch, who falls to 0-1.

With a 1-0 win by the San Diego Padres over the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix, the Dodgers extend their lead on the National League West to 2 1/2 games.  The Dodgers are now 26-6 in their last 32 games. and have gained a total of 13 games on the rest of the division in that time.

The Dodgers will have an off-day tomorrow, then welcome the New York Yankees to Dodger Stadium for a two game series on Tuesday night.  Zack Greinke (8-3, 3.49 ERA) will take on Andy Pettite (7-8, 4.39) on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium.

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