The Yasiel Puig Legend takes root in Los Angeles
Day Two, and the emerging Cuban superstar smashes two home runs and collects five RBI. The Dodgers were hoping he brought energy. He has brought the hammer.
He brought the wrecking ball to town all on his own.
Oh. My. Goodness.
The Dodgers blitzed San Diego 9-7 on Tuesday thanks to Puig's three-run jack in the fifth that erased a 5-2 Padres lead, and his two-run, opposite field tomahawk job in the sixth that extended the Dodgers' 7-6 lead to 9-6.
"Day Two," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly deadpanned afterward.
Quick, carve out a permanent spot in the Dodgers outfield for this guy. Get him into the All-Star Game. The club's annual Hollywood Stars softball game? Sure, sign him up.
At this point, why the heck not?
"Nice," shortstop Hanley Ramirez cooed, having watched the Puig PowerPoint Presentation upon his return from the disabled list. "Nice."
The Dodgers are still in last place. But suddenly, 48 hours after the kid's arrival, the possibilities again seem limitless.
"One thing about the home run," Mattingly said. "It can put you back in the game, and it can put the game away.
"We've had a serious lack of power."
Puig's swing over his first two nights looks capable of energizing Mulholland Drive all by itself. His arm could power all of downtown Los Angeles.
"Exciting tools," one scout who watched him this spring said Tuesday, still buzzing from highlights of Puig's Monday night throw. "I've never seen anybody stronger than that.
"Excitement in a bottle, there."
Two nights into his career, the 22-year-old Cuban refugee preserved the win in his first game with a sensational throw from the right-field wall to first base to nail a game-ending 9-3 double-play.
His second game, Puig single-handedly blasted the Dodgers to another victory.
His mother, father and 17-year-old sister were in the stands both nights. Already, he’s getting recognized around town.
"When they ask me for my autograph, I give it to them," the genial outfielder said through an interpreter.
Through two games, he's hitting .625 with a .625 on-base percentage and a 1.500 slugging percentage.
He has racked up two homers, one double, five hits, 12 total bases, five RBI and two in-game curtain calls from Dodger Stadium customers who recognize a live wire when they see one.
"I want to thank the fans for coming out and supporting the Dodgers," he said through the interpreter when quizzed about the curtain calls.
Attention, Marketing Department: This guy is good.
And the wreckage he has left behind on the field ... it's ridiculous.
"Pretty amazing,” said Dodgers reliever Matt Guerrier, who narrowly escaped catastrophe when a line drive up the middle nailed him in the thumb (X-rays were negative). “We saw a little of it in spring training. It’s been pretty exciting, these first two days.
"We haven’t seen him steal a couple of bases yet. We’ve got to see that next, right?”
Now that you mention it. ...
Actually, the one mistake he has been collared for came in the first inning Tuesday, following his leadoff double. He moved to third on Mark Ellis’ bouncer to second, but then stayed there when Adrian Gonzalez followed with another ground ball to second.
The Padres were playing back with one out, conceding the run. Puig should have run on contact. He easily would have scored.
"We're going to get some of that,” Mattingly said. “But when you’re getting as much as we’re getting on the other side, you deal with it."
Puig became the first Dodgers player with five or more RBI in his first two games since Spider Jordenson, who had six in 1947. He also became the first Dodgers player with a multi-homer game within the first two games of his career.
The three-run blast in the fifth was estimated at 439 feet.
The two-run poke in the sixth barely scraped over the right-field wall.
“You see a little of everything this guy can do,” Mattingly said. “Power both ways ... he's fun to watch.”
It was one thing to watch him dominate Cactus League pitching in the thin Arizona air.
But to see what he has done in a triple-deck stadium under the major-league lights with both his bat and his arm, whoa.
Said Padres first-base coach Dave Roberts: "They’ve got some energy now."
Now we'll see what they do with it.