No one thought the Los Angeles Dodgers, with all of the money spent on the franchise over the last couple of years, would be in early June with a 26-33 record, but the rise of rookie Yasiel Puig, delivering a grand slam home run in his magical career start to beat the Atlanta Braves 5-0 does make everyone feel a little bit better about the rest of the way.
This was the 7th time the Dodgers won with a shutout, making it three wins in four games for them, coming after a successful series against the San Diego Padres, which signaled the emergence of the 22-year old Cuban right fielder.
He went 5-of-8 through his first two games before an 0-for-4 performance in game number 3. With the bases loaded in the 8th, Puig hit his third home run this week to bring home Skip Shcumaker, Luis Cruz and Hanley Ramirez, ending the five-game winning streak the Braves were on.
The Braves couldn’t have been any colder throughout the evening, as Zach Grenike (now 3-1 with a 3.89 ERA) finished allowing only 4 hits in 7 innings, his best performance since allowing only 2 hits and no runs against the Pirates on April 5, and finally showing a chance of trend after giving up 28 hits and 15 runs over the previous 13.1 innings on his last three starts.
But Puig, who had Dodgers fans on their feet even before he hit his big home run, is the true story in all of this, even those his moment was defined by a few seconds and one big hit on the ball off of Cory Gearrin’s throw, who didn’t last on the mound very long before Alex Wood came on to try and stop the bleeding, which he did. On the other end, Kenley Jansen and Matt Guerrier finished the job, both pitching one inning, allowing a total of 3 hits but mostly silenced the Braves’ bats.
We have a lot of veteran players, so sometimes it’s nice to have a young guy come in, have that good mix. I think that’s what’s so infectious about him. He plays with such energy and it just seem like there’s a joy in his game. I really think it’s the way you’re supposed to play. It’s a kid’s game, you know?
Puig has managed to become an instant star, mostly thanks to his .438 average and 3 home runs on his first four games for the club, but also because of his tendency to play at a pace with both his feet and his hands that no one is really used to seeing anymore. How long will this last? It’s hard to say, but in a very disappointing start to the season which should have been the turning point for the new ownership, his ability and attitude might provide the spark to steer the ship in the right direction.
He became the 3rd player in modern baseball history (since 1900) to hit at least 3 home runs, with 1 being a grand slam, in his first 4 career games. They continue the series against the Braves (4-game series) with Hyun-Jin Ryu pitching next, hoping the South Korean (6-2, 2.89 ERA) continues his excellent form, which includes a shutout with only two hits in nine innings the last time he started for them (May 28, 3-0 over the Angels).