Amid everything that was so familiar about a 2013 Dodger defeat – fielding stumbles, poor situational hitting and a bullpen meltdown wasting a capable starting outing – there was something new about Thursday’s 6-3 loss to San Diego: fan frustration with Yasiel Puig.
What’s remarkable – and speaks volumes – is that it came in a game in which Puig hit yet another home run, his sixth (in 16 games) of the season, more than all but one other Dodger.
But after that first-inning, first-pitch blast, Puig struck out a career-high three times, chasing bad pitches like a young Raul Mondesi or Matt Kemp, and from then on you could hear the I told you sos.
Ken Gurnick of MLB.com provides the details of Puig’s second at-bat against Jason Marquis:
… with two on and no out in the third inning, he took a sinker he thought was too far inside and stared at the umpire.
“It seemed to irritate Yasiel and he started to swing at pitches out of the strike zone, and the rest of the night Marquis didn’t give in,” Mattingly said. “Yasiel has been fairly patient, tonight [he was] more aggressive out of the strike zone.”
He swung wildly at the next sinker and foul-tipped it. Marquis then came with a pair of down-and-away sliders Puig flailed at. Puig stared at Marquis as he headed toward the dugout and Marquis stared back. …
By the time Puig followed Skip Schumaker’s double-play grounder with a game-ending strikeout in the ninth – turning what for a brief moment looked like the potential for a stirring Dodger comeback into a deeper dive into last place – numerous Dodger fans on Twitter were not only chastising Puig but instructing him how he needs to change his stance.
Reminder: Puig has a 1.267 OPS at this moment.
Three points that should be obvious need to be stated:
• Baseball is a game of adjustments, and without a doubt, at some point Puig will need to make them. It’s understandable why alarm bells went off for fans with visions of a struggling Mondesi or Kemp. It was at a similar stage in his debut – after seven homers and a 1.287 OPS in his first 15 career games – that Kemp’s game first went south, pushing him back to the minors four weeks later.
• That being said, it’s one thing for fans to be frustrated, but after what he’s accomplished, Puig deserves more than three bad at-bats before the wolves come out, much less before people start tinkering with his stance in response to what simply might have been a night of frustration of his own. He is not going to spend his career flirting with a .500 batting average, so there needs to be some amount of pain tolerance.
• Puig is the least of the Dodgers’ worries right now.
The game was not without its highlights. Here’s one, courtesy of Adrian Gonzalez.
But the Padres outdid the Dodgers.
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For you Manny Mota fans out there – and how could you not be one – here’s a detailed piece from Bruce Markusen at the Hardball Times on the famed Dodger pinch-hitter, who will be inducted into the Baseball Reliquary Shrine of the Eternals this summer.