Puig’s pair of homers trumps his debut, as well as the returns of Ramirez and Quentin
It didn’t take long for Yasiel Puig to top his impressive major league debut. After collecting two hits and making a throw from the warning track that produced a game-ending double play on Monday night, the 22-year-old Cuban defector crushed his first two major league homers on Tuesday against the Padres, and collected a double as well. For as raw as he still may be, he’s already shown the capacity to inject life into the Dodgers’ dismal offense.
Batting in the leadoff spot for the second game in a row, Puig began the bottom of the first with a double to right field off Padres starter Clayton Richard; he’d have scored the team’s first run were it not for a baserunning blunder, a reminder that he’s had just 63 minor league games under his belt since coming to the U.S. He grounded out in the fourth inning, then came to bat with two men on and the Dodgers down 5-2 and did this:
The game-tying blast was estimated at 439 feet by the Dodgers’ PR staff; if that measure holds via the centralized ESPN Home Run Tracker, it would surpass Scott Van Slyke’s 436-foot May 17 drive as the team’s longest of the year.
The Dodgers had just taken a 7-6 lead against reliever Tyson Ross via Luis Cruz’s RBI double when Puig came to bat in the sixth — inducing a two-game hitting streak from Cruz (“hitting” .112/.158/.146 prior to Monday) is apparently one of the miracles of which he’s capable. This time, he went to the opposite field:
So now the Dodgers’ $42 million man is batting .625/.625/1.500 through two games, tying Matt Kemp’s total of home runs and providing a much-needed spark for a team that came into Monday with the NL’s third-worst scoring rate at 3.52 runs per game. How he’ll fit into an outfield with Carl Crawford, Kemp and Andre Ethier already locked into place via long-term contracts remains an open question. As long as at least one of those players is on the disabled list, it’s a moot point, but at the moment both Kemp and Crawford are there, and Ethier is struggling.
In the meantime, Puig is giving the 25-32 team something to distract them from all of their wounds, including the one produced by Carlos Quentin, who faced the Dodgers on Tuesday for the first time since breaking Zack Greinke’s collarbone on April 11. Despite rumors that the Dodgers would exact vengeance, Quentin’s plate appearances passed without incident; he singled in the first inning off Ted Lilly — a pitcher known for rarely shying from a scrap, but one without imposing velocity — popped out in the third, reached on an infield single in the fifth, hit a solo homer in the seventh to cut the score to 9-7, and grounded out to end the game while demonstrating sub-Molina foot speed.
Puig’s showing also overshadowed Hanley Ramirez’s return to the lineup. Ramirez has played in just five games this year due to thumb and hamstring injuries, the latter of which knocked him out of action on May 3. Given that Dodger shortstops have combined to hit a grand .182/.272/.271 this year, his return can’t help but have a huge impact even if he can’t keep up the pace he set by going 5-for-14 with three extra-base hits in his previous duty. He couldn’t on Wednesday (0-for-3 with a sacrifice fly), a night the Dodgers learned that they nonetheless may have a new bat to pick them up.