Braves-Dodgers Preview

The Associated Press

The Los Angeles Dodgers are still in last place in the NL West, but there's a buzz at Chavez Ravine that hasn't been felt or heard all season.

Yasiel Puig is the reason.

The outfielder continues his remarkable first week in the major leagues Friday night with fellow rookie sensation Hyun-Jin Ryu expected to get the ball against the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves.

Expected to challenge for their first division title since 2009, the Dodgers (26-33) underperformed through the first two months of the season. Los Angeles, though, is getting on a roll, winning three of four since Puig was called up from Double-A Chattanooga on Monday.

The 22-year-old Cuban defector has so far been as good as advertised. His strong throw from the right field warning track completed a game-ending double play in a 2-1 victory over San Diego on Monday, and he's batting .438 (7 for 16) with three homers and nine RBIs.

Puig's eighth-inning grand slam in a 5-0 victory to open this series Thursday set Dodger Stadium into a frenzy.

"It's just infectious the way he plays,'' manager Don Mattingly said. "Seems like there's a joy in his game. It's the way you're supposed to play. He just looks so fresh. That's what gives our guys so much energy.''

The Dodgers, winners of 10 of 14 at home, are expected to have Ryu (6-2, 2.89 ERA) back on the mound Friday after he missed his last turn with a sore foot. The left-hander was hit by a comebacker in a 3-0 win over the Los Angeles Angels on May 28, when he pitched a two-hitter and struck out seven.

Ryu, second among rookies in wins, doesn't throw in between outings - something the Dodgers were aware of when he signed a six-year, $36 million contract in December - but he threw about 25 pitches in a bullpen session Monday, according to the team's official website.

"(The foot is) a lot better today," Ryu said through an interpreter. "I'm pretty confident I should make my next start."

He'll face a Braves team coming off its first loss in six games. Atlanta (37-23), which had won 15 of 19, wasted a solid start from Tim Hudson and recorded just seven hits - six singles.

Jason Heyward was a bright spot with his fourth consecutive two-hit game.

The Braves have had no problem generating offense with Paul Maholm (7-4, 3.68) on the hill, as the left-hander has received more than six runs of support per game.

Beginning with an 8-5 victory over the Dodgers on May 17 when Maholm allowed four runs - two earned - in six innings, Atlanta has totaled 29 runs while winning his last four starts.

He won his third consecutive decision Sunday, throwing six innings of three-run ball in a 6-3 victory over Washington.

If Maholm runs into trouble, the Braves' bullpen will get a chance to regain its dominant form after Cory Gearrin gave up Puig's grand slam. Atlanta's relievers had yielded two runs in the previous nine games, a 28-inning stretch.