In a game where the Los Angeles Dodgers’ offense piled up 16 hits to halt their very brief skid, it was their star rookie who came up with the biggest one.
Yasiel Puig figures to get a few more chances to do some damage Wednesday.
A night after his tiebreaking pinch-hit homer in the eighth inning, Puig likely will be back in the starting lineup looking to support the red-hot Zack Greinke as the visiting Dodgers continue their four-game set with the Miami Marlins.
Puig has been a lightning rod lately for more than just the spectacular start to his career on the field, drawing criticism for poor throws from the outfield, baserunning mistakes, showing up umpires and a perceived brash attitude.
It was his 5-for-30 slump at the plate, though, that made Don Mattingly decide to give him a day off Tuesday - even before the Cuban outfielder’s late arrival to Marlins Park that earned him a fine and a closed-door meeting with his manager.
Puig didn’t just get to the ballpark fashionably late. He pinch hit for the second time this season with the score tied at 4 and promptly belted his first homer since Aug. 1, helping Los Angeles (73-52) avoid its first three-game skid since early June with a 6-4 win.
“We’re always expecting something great,” Dodgers pitcher Chris Capuano said. “He’s just got so much ability. He got a pitch and drove it, and what a spot to do it in. He doesn’t seem like he feels too much pressure out there.”
Mattingly admitted he looked at the benching as “a one-day thing,” and said Puig was animated as usual in the dugout and didn’t sulk about not starting.
“He’s not a problem,” Mattingly said. “Just a lot of stuff happens. He’s not a guy I think about that much and worry about.”
Though Puig’s hit may have been the most significant, he was hardly alone in contributing to the victory. Mattingly was critical of the entire front of the Dodgers’ lineup prior to Tuesday’s game, then watched as his Nos. 1-6 hitters went a combined 12 for 28.
Los Angeles did leave 12 runners on base as it went 4 for 17 with runners in scoring position, but it might only need a run or two Wednesday if Zack Greinke (11-3, 3.02 ERA) continues his recent dominance. The right-hander hasn’t allowed a run in 13 2-3 innings, going 7 1-3 in Friday’s 4-0 win at Philadelphia to improve to 5-1 with a 1.45 ERA in his past eight starts.
That’s the lowest ERA in baseball since July 8.
Greinke has a 1.01 ERA in his last four road starts after posting a 6.12 ERA in his first six. This will be his first start at Marlins Park, though he was 2-0 with a 3.46 ERA in his two previous visits to Miami.
He’ll be opposed by Nathan Eovaldi (2-3, 3.96), who was the centerpiece of the three-player package the Marlins (48-76) received for Hanley Ramirez on July 25, 2012.
The right-hander gave up six runs on three homers - including shots by Ramirez and Andre Ethier - in three innings of an 11-4 loss at Chavez Ravine on Aug. 24, an outing he matched in brevity Friday. Eovaldi was even worse at home against San Francisco, surrendering 11 runs in three innings of a 14-10 loss.
“I think this is the worst I’ve ever gotten hit,” Eovaldi said. “Hopefully this won’t happen a lot.”
For the most part, it hasn’t. Fifteen of the 28 earned runs he’s allowed have come in two of his outings, and Eovaldi has delivered a quality start in the other nine.