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Dodgers' Puig shows off bat, arm in winning debut

The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- Don Mattingly could only shake his head and laugh.

The story was too perfect, the cast too right, the setting too pristine.

Yasiel Puig's Los Angeles Dodgers debut had to have some kind of Hollywood ending, just had to. The two hits, which made Puig the first Dodger with multiple hits in a debut since Russell Martin in 2006? Those were just the opening credits.

The rocket's white blur was the grand finale.

Puig uncorked a brilliant throw from just inside the right field warning track to first base to complete a double play, capping his first major league game with an exclamation point as the Dodgers defeated the San Diego Padres 2-1 Monday night at Dodger Stadium.

By the time Kyle Blanks strolled to the plate with one out in the top of the ninth inning, Puig already had hit himself into the hearts of Dodgers fans. He would send them home floating, though.

With Chris Denorfia on first base, Blanks smashed a Brandon League offering to right field. Puig made the catch, watched as Denorfia got fooled into sliding into second base, then threw a dart to first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, the final flourish of a dazzling debut.

"How could you not be surprised by that ending?" Mattingly said. "The kid's out there and he's been hyped since the beginning of spring training. Yeah, it surprised me it ended like that ... but it is Hollywood."

With all eyes on Puig, Stephen Fife was able to slip under the radar in his return to the majors. Fife, who was activated from the disabled list and optioned to the minors late last week, was recalled to replace Chris Capuano (triceps) in the rotation. He wasted little time getting acclimated with his surroundings.

Fife (1-0) allowed just five hits and one run in 5 1/3 innings, striking out five before the bullpen took over. Brandon League pitched a scoreless ninth inning to notch his 12th save.

"Pretty solid," Fife said of his first career win in his seventh start. He had been sidelined since April 22 due to right shoulder bursitis. "Just coming back after a long period of not throwing, I was worried about rhythm and executing down in the zone. It was exciting to get out there and get the first double play in the first inning, which kind of settled me in."

Puig got much of the attention, however, and it was warranted after he dominated in spring training -- where he batted .517 -- and in Double-A.

Puig lived up to billing Monday, picking up two singles. Scott Van Slyke went 2-for-3 with a home run, and Gonzalez added a home run.

"In one game, you can see that this guy has a lot of tools," San Diego manager Bud Black said. "We saw the arm, even on the base hit by Chase (Headley), we saw the strong throw to home. He looks like he runs well. We'll see. It's only one game and I'm sure the Dodgers hope that it's a long career. On a scouting scale, the Dodgers and the rest of the scouts around baseball realize that this guy has a lot of tools."

Everth Cabrera, Jedd Gyorko and Alexi Amarista each had two hits for San Diego, which entered the game winners of four of six.

The Dodgers (24-32) tagged San Diego starter Eric Stults for two early solo home runs, but Stults (4-5) settled down and allowed just one hit over his next three innings. He wound up pitching seven innings of two-run ball.

"I feel like I'm able to execute my pitches with the game plan that we've come up with, so it's a good little run for me," Stults said. "I hope it keeps going. I think as far as I keep building on the momentum that I have pitching-wise, hopefully we'll get some wins here. Tonight was a tough loss, but we battled."

After San Diego turned a first-inning double play, Gonzalez knocked his eighth home run. Van Slyke opened the second inning with his fifth home run.

San Diego (26-31) awakened from its lull in the top of the sixth inning, trimming the lead to one on a Headley RBI single that scored Amarista and chased Fife.

NOTES: Dodgers OF Carl Crawford (strained left hamstring) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Sunday. ... San Diego OF Carlos Quentin sat out with general soreness after hitting the outfield wall Sunday night against the Toronto Blue Jays. ... Dodgers SS Hanley Ramirez (left hamstring strain) rejoined the Class A Rancho Cucamonga lineup on his rehab assignment Monday after sitting out Sunday, and he went 1-for-3 with a double. Ramirez could be activated soon. ... Puig hit .313 with a .982 OPS, eight home runs and 37 RBIs in 40 games for Double-A Chattanooga this season. ... Stults has started three games this year against the Dodgers, his former team. He's 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in those outings.
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