By Jon Weisman
As the catch was made, as the third out was recorded, as the crowd roared, as the legendary announcer uttered one more “¡Que viva Cuba!” at his final Dodgers-Giants game in Los Angeles, the outfielder’s teammates gathered in a handful near the third-base line, unwilling to wait for the prodigal son to return to the dugout.
They needed to see him there, then, on the field, in the moment.
Yasiel Puig, baseball’s living, breathing roller coaster, had done the full loop.
Putting his power, arm and glove on display as in his golden rookie days, the 25-year-old Puig dazzled Dodger Stadium, igniting Los Angeles to a haymaker first inning and a 9-3 rout of San Francisco.
It began, unexpectedly enough, with one out in the top of the first and Denard Span on second base, when Angel Pagan singled to right. Puig fielded the ball on his left, rotated right, drew back and launched the baseball onto the Autobahn, where it arrived in unreal time to nail Span at home if not for a mishandle by Carlos Ruiz (who went 2 for 4 at the plate).
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That put the Giants ahead against a Dodger team that had been held scoreless in 17 of the first 18 innings of this series, against a pitcher who shut them out for 15 1/3 innings in a row, who had no-hit them for 8 2/3 innings a month ago.
But the Matt Moore of tonight was not the Matt Moore of July and August. He was the Matt Moore of May, when the Dodgers ran up seven runs in 4 1/3 innings against him.
Only tonight, it happened even more quickly. Leadoff hitter Howie Kendrick ended any no-hit hopes with a single. After a forceout, Justin Turner walked and Adrián González singled to tie the game.
Then came Puig, who took the first pitch, then sent the second skyward.
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Los Angeles wasn’t done, ultimately tallying five runs in the first inning and one in the second against Moore, who retired only two of the 11 batters he faced.
Behind Kenta Maeda’s 11th consecutive start allowing three runs or less, the Dodgers cruised, with Puig rounding out his symphony with this coda.
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With the win, the Dodgers ran their National League West lead back up to six games and cut their magic number to clinch down to five, with 10 games to play. Joining the Mets and Cardinals in defeat today, the Giants remain in a three-way tie for the two NL Wild Card spots.
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