For as valuable as Yasiel Puig has been to the Los Angeles Dodgers since making his Major-League debut in June 2013, his relative inexperience and desire to contribute has at times proven to be a volatile combination.
Yes, Puig is the player who took over center-field duties so that Matt Kemp could find a new home in right. Yes, Puig changes games with his speed and accurate arm strength. However, he’s also the same player who struck out in seven consecutive at-bats during the NLDS, which was one shy of tying the record for most in a single postseason.
Following Monday’s loss, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he and the team have attempted to reinforce the simplicity of the game and eliminating distractions, according to Barry M. Bloom of MLB.com:
We continue to talk with him. And you don’t want the situation to be too big for him. Obviously, we know it’s emotional. We try to sit him down, continue to talk to him about playing baseball. And even though there’s a lot of people [in the crowd] waving towels and things are a little different obviously in the playoffs, I’ve said it all year long and many, many times — we have to simplify.”
Puig’s troubles at the plate have largely come in his inability to lay off pitches thrown on the outside corner and off the plate. John Lackey exposed that in Game 3, while also benefitting from a curious strike zone that left several Dodgers upset. Puig ended his strikeouts streak with a triple in the sixth inning and he later scored the tying run.
Puig went 2-for-4 in Game 1 with one RBI and three runs scored, but is now just 3-for-12 with eight strikeouts through three games. In 13 career postseason games, Puig is 16-for-51 (.314) and will be needed Tuesday afternoon if the Dodgers hope to avoid being eliminated.
While Mattingly said he’s worked with Puig, the center fielder was benched for Game 4 and replaced by Andre Ethier.