Hardy HR HR: Puig conquers the heavens

There is approximately a seven-second delay between when tweets from Dodger Stadium appear on my home computer and when the events they are describing appear on the small TV next to it.

When Yasiel Puig came up in the bottom of the sixth inning, his first career double and home run (and error) already to his credit, the Dodgers nursing an unlikely 7-6 lead courtesy of the second RBI hit of the entire season by Luis Cruz, I was just starting to settle in for what might be a thrilling at-bat, a rocket ship to the moon.

And then, before I even got my seat belt on, the rocket launched.

The Dodgers tweeted. Eric Stephen tweeted. My TV showed only ball one. And my heart dropped down a mineshaft into my gut.

Yasiel Puig, phenomenon.

Tonight was going to be the night we would all let the Puig hysteria take a breather. He might get a hit, he would strike out a couple of times, he would make that error, and after Monday’s stunning start, we’d load up for the long haul.

Instead, on a night at Dodger Stadium that probably eclipses even emotion felt following the pinch-hit Manny Ramirez grand slam of 2009, a night that the Dodgers came back and held on for a 9-7 victory over San Diego, you needed to defibrillate all of Los Angeles.

Puig is the first major-league player with at least two homers and five RBI in his second game in 64 years. He is 5 for 8 with 12 total bases in his 27-hour-old Dodger career. But the stats don’t do the phenomenon justice.

If Matt Kemp came on as the Bison, what is Puig? Beast of the Cuban Wild? If I’m Hushpuppy, this is what he looks like to me.

I don’t think I’m alone. Puig’s exploits brought youthful thrills from Vin Scully, who shouted “Que viva Cuba, viva Puig!” as each moment topped the last.

“If you joined us late,” said Scully, “I’m sorry.”  And that was before Puig’s second homer, an opposite-field laser over the right-field wall.

As the Dodgers fell behind 3-0 in the second inning and 5-2 in the fourth, starting pitcher Ted Lilly bringing nothing to tonight’s party, my thought was that Puig won’t mean a whole lot to the Dodgers if the Dodgers can’t get guys out. Monday’s victory, after all, was as much about Dodger pitchers holding San Diego to one run over the first eight innings as it was about Puig and the defense holding them down in the ninth.

But Puig forestalled that reality, with help from Tim Federowicz, who turned hard on a second-inning Clayton Richard pitch and hit a two-run second-inning homer down the left field line, and Cruz, who reached base twice for only the third time this season. Puig’s first homer, with Federowicz and Cruz aboard, bridged a 5-2 deficit in the bottom of the fifth, before the second homer gave the Dodgers the eighth and ninth runs they would need in hanging on to victory.

So tonight, once again, we soar to the sky. Viva Puig! Tomorrow, we return to Earth. Right? Right?

With Yasiel Puig in right field, and Clayton Kershaw on the mound, I’m not so sure.

  • Anonymous

    It’s only just beginning!

  • Anonymous

    The Kid going for the first sweep . . . since the second series of the season?!

  • Anonymous

    IMHO – That swing he put on that ball he drove out to right was a true ‘power hitters’ swing’

    ….
    Just hit it where it’s pitched….
    Throw him middle-in, he’ll launch it into the LF pavillion!
    Throw him outside, he’ll simply wait on it, and drive it into the RF pavillion!
    ….
    Kinda reminds me of a young Vladdy Guerrero.

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Great Game…Love the run production…night all!!

  • Anonymous

    Such a great game tonight. Glad to enjoy it with my peeps here!

  • http://www.twitter.com/ElJefedor Jeffrey Thomas III

    Beast of the Cuban Wild. Brilliant. Though “Puig of the Cuban Wild” may fit just as well.

    • Anonymous

      Since Kershaw was the Minotaur, I’ve favored El Minotauro.

  • Joseph Wolfe

    Great post Jon, one small error, last night’s game was Monday night, not Tuesday

  • Anonymous

    I love his energy, above all. So many ball players make baseball look like a miserable game. I love seeing the players in the dugout coming to life with Puig. Maybe its not the MLB norm and veterans wont embrace it, but it reminds everyone this is a game. It was great to hear Vin come alive as well.

    I think Puig deserve the nickname, “El Caballo,” which roughly means a stud in Cuban slang – and literally a horse.

    But I will post this question to those who know the game’s politics better than me, what happens if Puig keeps this at a realistic pace of .300/good power/good defense? Do the Dodgers sit Either with a healthy Crawford and Kemp?

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      “with a healthy Crawford and Kemp”

      That’s a bridge we can cross if and when it arrives.

      • Anonymous

        Very true! Puigmania has made me a bit too optimistic…

    • http://www.twitter.com/ElJefedor Jeffrey Thomas III

      I believe they start to think about platoon if that happens.

    • Anonymous

      To LA Rumbero: I think that Puig, if he continues at even a realistic pace, is in the lineup regardless of what else happens with our other outfielders. Right now, there is simply no way he can be sat down. Two of our regular three outfielders are on the disabled list, and Ethier isn’t faring well. Puig is the very hot hand. Mattingly will stay with him. And, by the way, at the risk of being presumptuous, I would like to welcome you to Dodgerthoughts.com. Jon Weisman simply runs the best site for Dodger fans.

      • Anonymous

        Thank you… Long time baseball fan, LONG time reader.

      • Anonymous

        I agree. Unless Puig bottoms out, he’s here to stay. I simply don’t see the Dodgers trading Ethier (this season), so I think we’re looking at a 4-man outfield platoon the rest of the season, presuming good health.

    • Anonymous

      .300/good power/good defense is AS level performance. I hope he gets there, and with his tools, who knows, maybe that’s as early as now, but it’s way to early to project prime Vlad Guerrero as the conservative projection after two games against Eric Stultz and Clayton Richards.

  • Anonymous

    Puig even managed to bring back prime time Weisman. I like it. Great post.

  • Anonymous

    Cespedes had a 2 HR game for Oakland, I wonder if two Cuban nationals have had multi-home run games in the Major Leagues on the same day,

    • Anonymous

      Good question. Perhaps it would be some combination involving Jose Cardenal, Tony Gonzalez and Tony Perez,

      • Anonymous

        I would also add Tony Oliva into that mix.

  • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

    Nice.
    heavenly indeed.
    I did find myself saying “Dios mio!” several times tonight.
    A much needed boost is our new Cuban Missle.

    • Anonymous

      I like “The Cuban Missile” for a nickname.

  • Anonymous

    Recently Jon wrote, “Some Dodgers fans have little sense of irony.” – How about after Puig’s throw to 3rd tonight bounced off the runner for an error, allowing a run to score, and after the 3rd out Andre the odd man out Ethier was shown in the dugout counselling his soon to be replacement in RF?

    • Anonymous

      Ethier is getting it from fans and writer for his on the field performance and for his off the field persona, but his interactions with Puig have been interestingly positive.

  • Anonymous

    Kemp first half of June 2006, 368/419/947/1421 7HR’s

    I (foolishly) told my son the Dodgers have a Pujois

  • Puig Power

    John — watching Puig made me harken back to my favorite player as a kid, Raul Mondesi. One Google search later and I’m seeing a LOT of the same here! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=266_bkRG7c8 Here’s hoping he doesn’t derail his career like Raul.

    • Anonymous

      Ah yes. Raul Mondesi. I worked with him pretty closely in the Arizona Instructional League in Autumn 1990, just a kid from the Dominican. Compared the pleasant, respectful, and always friendly Pedro Martinez, Mondesi was his exact opposite. Great five tool talent. But treated me as his personal servant, even though I was running the business side of the entire camp! Perhaps some of that attitude contributed to his career careening off course.

    • Anonymous

      TFS. The thing I notice about Mondesi in those clips is a smugness, an attitude of “I dare you to run on me.” What has been so refreshing about Puig is his visible joy for the game. His giant smile. His eagerness to do that jumping high five thing with the other outfielders at the end of the game. I’m sure that will wear off eventually, but he has 42 million reasons to remain an enthusiastic kid for the next six years.

      • Anonymous

        I have a feeling it might take a while for the energy to wear off. We are talking about a man who was making around $10.00 USD a month in Cuba to play baseball. A guy who didn’t have any access to most of the minor things we take for granted. He won the lottery simply by leaving Cuba and now is getting millions to play the game….

        The argument can be made, rightfully, that the Dominican and other Latin players have similar living conditions in their countries. But the political system in Cuba, which does not allow Cubans to travel outside their country or pursue professional sports careers, creates a more oppressive and hopeless environment. Puig should be happy for a long while.

        I reserve the right to worry about Puig’s attitude if he shows up to Dodger Stadium with a tattoo of a flaming ball on his right bicep.

  • Anonymous

    Nice to see Cruz do something. Cruz Missile?

    • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

      He needs to perform like late last year to earn that moniker…but I like that he is finding his stroke again

      • Anonymous

        Well, you’re up with the chickens.

  • Anonymous

    This Puig performance is just the sort of thing we had come to expect from Matty and shows just how much this team had lost. Reggie Jackson’s proverbial straw. Get better Bison!

  • Anonymous

    So when Kemp gets back, what is Ned getting from the Mets or Mariners for Ethier?

    • foul tip

      For starters, a large supply of ketchup and mustard to help his contract go down better.

  • foul tip

    1) Does DM deserve praise for batting Puig leadoff, or did he just get lucky? Works on several levels, especially getting more ABs first time though the league.

    2) Just from Gurnick’s game story, apparently Beli is much better right now at throwing dugout tantrums than throwing baseballs.

    • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

      1) Yes. Was risky but it’s worked.
      2) Yeah that was about the only target Beli hit last night. I feel like they need to put him on the disabled list with wobble-itis or something. Really not reliable right now (to say the least.)

      • Anonymous

        Certainly not the same Belisario we knew for the past years. Scott Proctor syndrome?

  • Anonymous

    So who’s heading up the All Star Game write in vote campaign?

  • Anonymous

    You know, of course, that we desperately need Cliff Lee now. What would it take to get him?

    • Anonymous

      Cliff Lee is DT’s Great White Whale.

    • foul tip

      I’ve also wondered if the team would go after him. Being another lefty in a lefty-heavy rotation shouldn’t exclude a pitcher of his caliber, but you have to wonder what Dodger brass thinks.

      Even if all pitchers were healthy, he’d be a substantial upgrade over some starters.

  • Anonymous

    He’s good, eh?

  • Anonymous

    I don’t have the right tools to check, but the closest instances I could find of two Cubans have multi-homer games were Jose Canseco and Rafael Palmeiro having them 3 days apart.

    • Anonymous

      How quickly I forgot about Rafey and Jose being in MLB at the same time. I guess since they spent significant time in the U.S. before making to MLB, I classified them differently.

  • Anonymous

    Just watched Puig’s 2 HRs at Dodgers.com — the only thing better than actually seeing it was hearing Vin’s call. . . . But he brings a smile to me even with not-so-good games.

  • http://www.twitter.com/ElJefedor Jeffrey Thomas III

    Puigmania has infected me to the point where when making plans with friends tonight all I could think about was hoping a TV would be nearby with the game to catch his at-bats.

  • Anonymous

    What a wonderful feeling – to be looking forward to tonight’s game, instead of bracing myself for it.

    • Anonymous

      Ditto that!

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    #Dodgers lineup vs. San Diego:

    Puig RF

    Schumaker 2B

    Gonzalez 1B

    Ramirez SS

    Ethier CF

    Van Slyke LF

    Uribe 3B

    Federowicz C

    Kershaw P

    • Anonymous

      Hopefully Puig and SVS and even FedEx . . . + HanRam . . . can light a fire under Andre!

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT
  • Anonymous

    Yasiel Puig: merely a first-round HOFer, or the first unanimous choice?

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    NPUT

  • Anonymous

    Crazy game in Seattle today, does anyone ever remember a higher evening up of scoring (5-5) during an extra innings?