Prior to being placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left hamstring on April 26, Yasiel Puig did not play in six games. The Los Angeles Dodgers went 5-1 in such games. After Puig landed on the DL, the Dodgers went 11-4 through his first 15 games missed, including a five-game winning streak.
Naturally, though largely unfounded, it led to a sense the Dodgers could not only manage, but still thrive without their young All-Star right fielder. However, a 9-14 stretch followed that impressive stretch and it led to those very people who questioned Puig’s importance, celebrating his return June 6.
While some in the Dodgers’ fan base may have second guessed Puig’s value to the team, manager Don Mattingly was not among them. “Getting Yasiel back really frees up left field to go and do what we want,” he said prior to Friday’s series finale with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
All Puig did that night was go 4-for-4 with a home run, scored the winning run and come up a triple shy of the cycle. “Everything has looked really good, his at-bats have been good,” Mattingly said after Puig’s big night at the plate. “He looks really good at the plate and out in the field.”
While Puig reached safely in all five of his at-bats, it was Howie Kendrick who delivered with a walk-off RBI single in the bottom of the ninth. Kendrick’s game-winning hit was his only on the night and came one day after he led the Dodgers with three RBIs. The second baseman may only be in his first season with the Dodgers, but he too is well aware of the difference Puig makes.
“He’s been a spark for us since he came back in the lineup,” Kendrick said during an on-field postgame interview with Time Warner Cable’s Kelli Tennant. “He’s definitely a big part of our team. We need every guy and he’s a big part.”
Kendrick later went deeper into what Puig brings to the table and his importance. “The biggest thing is the guy can play,” he said. “When he’s clicking on all cylinders, he’s definitely a big part of our team.”
“He can hit the ball out of the yard, he hits the gaps and he can steal bases. I know with his hamstring he’s probably held back a little bit, but I’d say 80 percent of him is better than none of him.” In four games since being activated from the disabled list Puig is batting .600/.625/1.00 (9-for-15) with one home run, three doubles and four RBIs.
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