After being one of the Los Angeles Dodgers best hitters during the 2017 postseason, Yasiel Puig finally had his breakthrough game in the 2018 postseason. And not surprisingly, he had a lot of fun doing it.
Despite being a late-game entry as a pinch hitter in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, Puig had plenty of time to put on a show while helping the Dodgers move to within one win of the World Series with a 5-2 win against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Manager Dave Roberts actually benched Puig to start Game 5 after the Brewers announced veteran left-hander Wade Miley as their initial “out-getter.” The right-handed hitting Puig struggled against left-handed pitching all season, hitting just .209/.268/.360 against them in 153 plate appearances. Puig ended the season in a platoon for playing time in right field. Roberts has stuck to that platoon even as the Dodgers have struggled for consistent October offense.
Perhaps because of that platoon, Puig had also struggled to get on track during the postseason. He entered Game 5 hitting .250 with zero homers and zero runs batted in after starting just five of the Dodgers first nine postseason games.
He found his swing on Wednesday, and he brought back a lot of the flair that we became accustomed to seeing during his 2017 postseason breakout.
Pinch-hitting for Kiké Hernández in the sixth inning, Puig came through with a clutch two-out single to score Manny Machado and extend the Dodgers lead to 3-1. In a series where every run has been a struggle, Puig’s first postseason RBI gave Los Angeles a relatively large amount of breathing room.
Puig felt the moment too, celebrating like he’d delivered a walk-off hit on his way to first base.
It’s that enthusiasm that has defined Puig’s career. It’s that enthusiasm that’s also made Puig a polarizing figure. As Ken Griffey Jr. put it, let’s let the kids play, shall we?
Not that Puig’s ever needed our permission anyway. He unleashes his brand of entertainment whenever he sees fit. We even saw a little more in Game 5, when he attempted to steal third base in the eighth inning. We’re not entirely sure what Puig was doing, we just know it was a Puig-only moment.
Puig barely played three innings. He finished 2-for-2 at the plate and knocked in a run. Above all else, he clearly had more fun than anyone else on the field.
It hasn’t so much been about who starts the game during the 2018 postseason, especially now with managers pulling starting pitchers one batter into their outings. It’s been about who finishes. In Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, Yasiel Puig was the Dodgers’ finisher. And he finished with flair.
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