This had to be the most dramatic, fanfare-laden series between a first-place team and a last-place team. Yasiel Puig was the center of attention again for the Dodgers as he drew headlines in his first visit to South Beach.
He was at the center of a highly anticipated matchup with fellow Rookie of the Year candidate and Cuban defector Jose Fernandez on Monday. Unfortunately, Fernandez would get the best of Puig and the Dodgers that on Monday.
Fernandez pitched six of innings, allowing two runs, one earned, and striking out eight en route to his ninth win of the year. As for Puig, well, he went 0-5 including a fifth inning strikeout that had Puig fuming and shouting demonstratively at home-plate umpire John Hirschbeck.
Tuesday would bring more drama as Puig was fined by Don Mattingly for arriving to the park late. Puig was also held out of the starting lineup, but Mattingly said that decision was made before Puig was tardy. Puig had been 0 for his last nine at bats, and only three for his last 22.
Puig entered the game in the sixth as a defensive replacement and with the game tied 4-4 in the eighth inning, Puig stepped to the plate for the first time.
Puig crushed the first pitch from Marlins reliever Dan Jennings deep into left field and the ball bounced off the top of the wall onto a stairwell below the bleachers for Puig’s twelfth home run of the season. Puig learned his lesson about being late as evidenced by the photo the Dodgers tweeted out the next day.
No more heroics were needed from Puig or anybody else on the Dodgers for the next two games as Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw handled business again. Greinke tossed eight innings of one run ball on Wednesday night, striking out seven with no walks.
Greinke is now 12-3 with a 2.91 ERA on the season and since July 8, Greinke leads all of MLB with a 1.41 ERA. Kevin Baxter of the L.A. Times explains here how pitching coach Rick Honeycutt helped Greinke work out a mechanical flaw, thus leading to his return to dominance.
As for Kershaw, he just continued to be the best pitcher on the planet with another eight shutout innings on Thursday. Even on a day when he didn’t have his best stuff, a four pitch walk to Christian Yelich to lead-off the game, a wild pitch in the second, it was still vintage Kershaw. Overall, Kershaw threw sixteen shutout innings on the road trip and his season ERA is now a ridiculous 1.74!!
After Kershaw left Thursday’s game following the eighth inning, it appeared like it was just going to be another typical Dodgers win. No, this amazing team gave Dodgers fans one more giddy moment, the Dodgers’ debut of Brian Wilson.
It was quite the spectacle seeing Wilson, now sporting an even longer beard with a pony tail of its own as Dodger fans dreaded his appearances when he was with the Giants. He’s a character on the mound, with his kung fu/pirate beard, his shaved head also in some type of a Shaolin monk, faux-hawk, mini-ponytail, and his herky jerk movements and quiet intensity.
Wilson looked sharp, he kept the ball down, hit the corners and his trademark cut-fastball had plenty of movement on it as he struck out two and allowed a two-out double.
Although it was fun seeing Wilson in the game, his role with the team remains unclear, but if Mattingly can find ways to use Wilson in the later innings, the Dodgers’ bullpen will just be that much more lethal.
The Dodgers will return home Friday for a highly anticipated interleague matchup with the AL-leading Boston Red Sox (75-54). The Red Sox just took two of three games from the reeling Giants up at AT&T Park this week, including a 12-1 drubbing on Wednesday. Ricky Nolasco will take the mound Friday night against John Lackey and is a familiar face to Southern California sports fans from his many years with the Angels.
In case you missed it, be sure to find out all the details of Yasiel Puig getting fined.