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Dodgers returning home from Australia with two wins, villain role still intact

Tim Brown
Yahoo Sports
Los Angeles Dodgers' Yasiel Puig, left, is about to be tagged out at third base by the Diamondbacks' Marin Prado during the second game of the two-game Major League Baseball opening series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks at the Sydney Cricket ground in Sydney, Sunday, March 23, 2014

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Los Angeles Dodgers' Yasiel Puig, left, is about to be tagged out at third base by the Diamondbacks' Marin Prado during the second game of the two-game Major League Baseball opening series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks at the Sydney Cricket ground in Sydney, Sunday, March 23, 2014. (AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

SYDNEY – Soon, today will be today again for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Arizona Diamondbacks, their having functioned long enough in tomorrow, which fouls up everybody's one-day-at-a-time unconscious.

After something like a week in time-space limbo, they settled up over a couple games in 24 hours here, bused to the Qantas terminal and called it an experience. An adventure. For the Dodgers, but not the Diamondbacks, a g'day.

The Dodgers pitched with authority and precision again. They beat the Diamondbacks 7-5 at Sidney Cricket Ground, so won again. And here's the thing about that:

They go home 2-0, and will spend the next week, until they play in San Diego next Sunday night, at 2-0. They'll peel the layers of their jetlag and wonder when their legs will lighten, and gaze at the clock and muse to themselves, "Um, a.m. or p.m.?" at 2-0.

Keeps going like this, the Dodgers this happy, Magic Johnson's going to need a longer cameo in Pharrell Williams' next music video.

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The Dodgers won both games against the Diamondbacks in Australia. (AP)

This was always a Diamondbacks thing. They wanted a series abroad, and it almost didn't happen when the Dodgers weren't that into it, and then it was back on when the Dodgers went along, and the Diamondbacks gave up two home games for it and arrived as the good guys, and then got hammered over two games. So, and maybe nobody remembers these games by May, but for the next nine days, or until the San Francisco Giants roll into Phoenix, the Diamondbacks will be 0-2. That means the 8,000 miles home, the wait for the season, the jetlag, the legs, the clocks, all that, lugging oh and two.

No wins. No statement. No blood. But lots of walks and errors.

The Dodgers, on the other hand, didn't play exceptionally, and in fact were awful in the final few innings, but were plenty good enough. Hyun-Jin Ryu threw five shutout innings, by which time he was ahead 5-0. They had 13 hits and 25 baserunners. Over the two games, the Dodgers did not trail and were not really pushed. Of the 18 innings, the Dodgers led by at least three runs in 12 of them.

They looked calm, confident and for the most part capable. Most of them did.

So, Yasiel Puig.

That was him in between first and second base in the third inning, starting and stopping, wheeling and turning, coughing and wheezing, aflame in another run-til-yer-out four-alarmer. Course, the problem with run-til-yer-outs is the inevitability of them. Eventually there'll be a ball waiting.

Bless him, Puig refuses to recognize inevitable. And so in the middle of what could have been a monster inning for the Dodgers and instead became two somewhat hollow runs, he was hopelessly trapped.

The night before, as the leadoff hitter, he'd been to the plate five times, struck out in three of them, and saw a total of 15 pitches. He batted second Sunday behind Dee Gordon, singled in the first and then, with runners on second and third in the third inning, bounced a single through the left side that scored one, but not two, and presumably he assumed a throw to the plate, which there wasn't, and there he was. Out there. Again. The scorecard read 7-5-4-3-5-4. It only looks that competitive.

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Adrian Gonzalez (left) had some advice for Yasiel Puig after he was caught in a rundown. (AP)

Adrian Gonzalez said something in his ear and gave him a little hug on the way off. Don Mattingly patted him on the shoulder. These are the efforts to keep Puig moving in the right direction, because his ability will win them games, if some days he tries their sensibilities.

He did have three hits, and he was on base seemingly all afternoon, and he ran into two inexplicable outs on the basepaths (yes, there was another), and came out of the game in the ninth inning after tweaking his back on a swing, and it's always quite a ride.

Puig is a part of who they are, and that's to be determined.

You are the perception of you, or something like that, and the Dodgers probably won't like the perception of them. Maybe they don't care, as long as at the end of the day they've amassed decent at-bats and thrown first-pitch strikes and hit some cut-off men.

They're villains forever more, or until the money runs out, and they'll just have to live with that. It comes with the uniform and the payroll. There were boos when Puig was introduced on opening night here, 7,500 miles from where they give a crap about bat flips and third base dances. His reputation, apparently, took an earlier flight.

Asked what it was like to be the bad guys again, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was not terribly self aware.

"We are?" he said. "Well, I don't know. I don't think we want to be bad guys. We just want to win two games, is all."

The guy from the Los Angeles Times wanted to know why the Dodgers so "repulse" people.

"Repulse?" Mattingly repeated. "Wow."

That might be a tad strong. It's probably not personal. It probably wouldn't matter if it were. They wear their payroll like a rented broach on Oscars night. They expect to win. They wave at their buddies from second base. They trespass in pools. Well, pool. Just one.

"You end up being the bad guy no matter what," Mattingly said. "It's something we can't really worry about. I don't think there's anything to do about that other than just play baseball."

By the end Sunday, he was disturbed by the final few innings.

"I'm happy getting out of here with two wins," he said. "It's a good start. I guess I should be happy with it."

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