Prior to the Los Angeles Dodgers having played Game 3 of the National League Division Series, Game 4 was shaping up to be an important one for the team.
Manager Don Mattingly made the decision he would start Clayton Kershaw on three days’ rest in what would either be an elimination game or an opportunity to close the series out. While the Dodgers would sink or swim with their best pitcher on the mound, the same couldn’t be said for the outfield.
Yasiel Puig, who at one point struck out in seven consecutive at-bats in the NLDS, was benched for Game 4. Andre Ethier started in place of Puig in what Mattingly said was a move that he believed gave the team the best opportunity to win.
However, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, Puig’s benching may have been tied to a perceived lack of focus:
Puig, 23, angered some teammates and coaches throughout the series with his occasional lack of focus and effort in center field, according to sources with knowledge of the situation.
In what may have been the final straw that led to Puig’s benching, Hanley Ramirez was forced to go out into left-center to catch a Matt Adams pop fly in the third inning. Although the play appeared to be more Crawford’s, it reflected poorly on Puig in the bench’s eyes:
One play in Game 3, in particular, “generated a lot of commotion on the bench,” according to one source.
As Game 4 wore on, there weren’t many opportunities for Mattingly to use Puig. With Kershaw going into the seventh inning, the first true chance to pinch-hit for the pitcher’s spot didn’t come until the ninth inning. However, that wasn’t given to Puig, who instead pinch-ran for A.J. Ellis.
However unlikely it may be, rumors have surfaced linking Puig to trade talks only days after the elimination loss.