Dodgers' Puig adds to young legend with slam

Jon Gold, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- Baseball is a game of myths and heroes, and it's hard to tell which comes first, the myth or the hero.
On Thursday night at Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly and Adrian Gonzalez chatted as Yasiel Puig made his way to the plate with the Dodgers leading the Atlanta Braves 1-0 and the bases loaded in the eighth inning.
Which of them created the myth is up for debate.
Gonzalez was unavailable for comment after the game and unable to confirm, but as Mattingly describes it, the two hitting stars -- one of the 1980s and one of today -- gazed upon the Dodgers' new phenom and called the shot.
After the first three games of Puig's career, which included five hits, two home runs and a game-ending outfield assist, they weren't so much predicting a grand slam as expecting just another curtain call.
The myth became a reality as Puig continued his phenomenal start with a grand slam in the Dodgers' 5-0 win.
"I'm talking to Adrian, he's right next to me, and we're like ... this should be a grand slam here," Mattingly said. "First pitch. We were kidding, but ... it doesn't really surprise you."
Through seven innings, Zack Greinke and Tim Hudson each allowed just four hits, with the game's lone run coming on Skip Schumaker's poorly hit RBI groundout in the second inning. The stadium was drowsy, if not already dozing off when Puig strutted to the plate with the bases loaded.
After Cory Gearrin relieved Hudson to open the eighth inning and struck out Tim Federowicz, the Dodgers (26-33) reeled off consecutive hits by Schumaker and Luis Cruz. Hanley Ramirez pinch-hit for Dodgers reliever Kenley Jansen and drew a walk, and Puig came up with three runners on base for the first time.
Puig drove Gearrin's offering to the opposite way to right field as the stadium exploded for the fourth time in as many days, following Puig's career debut, which featured a game-ending, double-play throw to first base, and then his two-homer Tuesday.
"I just prepared myself to do what I'm doing, and the most important thing is the team is winning," Puig said. "The only thing I was thinking about was hitting the ball hard. ... It's the same thing as spring training."
Added Gearrin: "It was a first pitch, a slider, just up over the plate. I have to make better pitches. If it's down, I might get what I want there. But you can't make that kind of pitch in a situation like that. You tip your hat to him and learn from it."
Puig's second hit of the game, which lifted his average to .438, was just the Dodgers' fifth of the night, as Hudson (4-5) was close to unhittable, retiring 15 straight at one point. Hudson allowed no walks while striking out five in his seven-inning outing.
The problem for the Braves (37-23) was that Greinke was also sharp. He walked three and fanned seven in his scoreless seven innings.
"I felt all right," Greinke (3-1). "I've been working on some things in between starts and I just felt good. Not perfect yet. I had a plan going into the game and it worked out pretty good. I've been struggling, obviously, but I felt like I've been kind of close. Still not where I want to be, but definitely a fun start."
A fun start for the Dodgers, but in Puig fashion, a thrilling ending.
Even though his teammates sit in awe of what awaits the 22-year-old outfielder.
"It's very special, he's off to the best start I've ever seen," Los Angeles reserve infielder Jerry Hairston Jr. said. "There have been really good players, but he has everything. You don't want to get too far ahead of yourself, but the thing that impresses me the most is the opposite-field power. He's got everything you want in a baseball player."
NOTES: OF Carl Crawford (hamstring) likely will be on the disabled list longer than minimum 15 days as he continues to be nagged by the injury, Mattingly said. Crawford is batting .301 on the year for the Dodgers after dipping below the mark the last two seasons. ... Dodgers SS Hanley Ramirez got a scheduled off day Thursday after just returning from the disabled list this week. Ramirez has played just six games for Los Angeles this year, battling myriad injuries. ... Hudson entered the game 1-4 with a 7.67 ERA in six road starts. ... The Dodgers selected Jacksonville University RHP Chris Anderson with the 18th pick in the first round of Thursday's draft. They took Minnesota LHP Tom Windle at pick No. 56 of the second round. Anderson shot up the draft boards with a fantastic junior season. He throws 97 mph. ... The Braves got themselves a young battery with their first two draft selections, taking RHP Jason Hursh out of Oklahoma State with the 31st pick of the first round and C Victor Caratini from Miami Dade Junior College with the 65th pick in the second round.