LOS ANGELES -- In a quiet hallway beneath Dodger Stadium, not long after a thunderous roar of his creation had quieted, Yasiel Puig recalled a time he has been able to hit home runs with the ease he is operating at now."Yes," he said, "[in] my house on a video
LOS ANGELES -- In a quiet hallway beneath Dodger Stadium, not long after a thunderous roar of his creation had quieted, Yasiel Puig recalled a time he has been able to hit home runs with the ease he is operating at now.
"Yes," he said, "[in] my house on a video game."
Puig had just one at-bat as a pinch-hitter Wednesday night, and saw just two pitches, but he sent that second one screaming over the left-center-field fence for a three-run home run in the seventh inning that was the difference in a 5-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies.
• Puig celebrates homer with epic bat flip
When the series against the Rockies started Monday, the Dodgers trailed Colorado by a half game. When the three-game sweep was completed, the Dodgers had opened a 2 1/2-game lead in the National League West with nine games remaining on their schedule.
Puig has been a big reason for the Dodgers' recent run that has given them seven victories over their last eight games, including three victories in four tries at contending St. Louis. Puig had two home runs against the Cardinals on Friday and three more Saturday.
Puig's home run outburst was essentially what gave him the National League Player of the Week award. But he did not play Tuesday, and admitted that he was not even at Dodger Stadium when Chris Taylor hit a game-ending home run.
Reports indicated that Puig's Los Angeles-area home was robbed at some point while he was at Dodger Stadium for Tuesday's game. But he was in such a good mood Wednesday, he even joked about his efforts to return to Dodger Stadium before Tuesday's game ended.
"I tried to come back and said, 'Oh, I'm going to hit a home run. too," Puig said. "But [Taylor] hit it before I tried to come back. There was too much traffic and my pilot's not home. He had vacation."
Things are going so well for the Dodgers and manager Dave Roberts right now that they can hand pick key spots for their hottest hitter. Roberts elected to not start Puig for the last two games because the Rockies had a left-hander on the mound and Puig has struggled against lefties this season.
It helped that Dodgers starter Walker Buehler overcame a shaky first inning, when he gave up two runs, to strike out a career-best 12 batters.
After Matt Kemp hit a home run in the second inning and James Dozier hit an RBI double in the fifth to tie the score at 2, the stage was set for Puig in the seventh against Rockies reliever Scott Oberg.
"First of all, this game, this series was emblematic of our ballclub and how many people had their hands in this to help win three games," Roberts said. "Yasiel, to be able to put him in that leverage spot and to be prepared for that moment and to come through was huge, obviously."
"Prepared" might have been overstating it. Puig admitted that he did not pick up a bat until five minutes before he went to the plate. He got into a squat to stretch his legs right before stepping into the batter's box.
He hit the first pitch from Oberg foul down the third-base line, then jumped on a slider for his 22nd home run of the season.
"It was great," Puig said. "I didn't sleep too much yesterday and I came here early and really didn't work too much, only talking with my teammates. … God blessed me. I didn't try to hit a home run. I tried to put the ball into the air or do something, just not hit a ground-ball double play [so I can] put us up by a run."
Instead, he hit the jackpot.
"That's why I was excited because when my teammates do the same thing, I am excited for my teammates," Puig said. "That's one of the bigger reasons we're winning the last couple of days because everybody is enjoying the moment, everybody is together and everybody is like a family."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Dodgers reliever Kenta Maeda appears to be finding the form that made him an effective reliever last postseason. Maeda set the stage for a Kenley Jansen save when he struck out two more batters Wednesday. That gives him five strikeouts over five batters faced going back to Thursday's victory in 10 innings.
Maeda turned the ball over to Scott Alexander, who got Matthew Holliday to ground out, ending the Rockies' half of the eighth. Jansen pitched a perfect ninth inning for his 36th save.
"Kenta has been great," Roberts said. "He's pitched three out of four [games] so I told him when he came out that he has tomorrow off."
Kemp gave the Dodgers a National League record with his home run in the second inning. Kemp's 20th of the season meant that seven players now have at least 20 home runs in a Dodgers uniform this season. Six American League teams have accomplished the feat, the most recent being the Orioles last season. With Taylor sitting on 17 homers, the Dodgers have a chance to set a Major League record.
Including in-season acquisitions Manny Machado and Dozier, the Dodgers have nine hitters on the roster with at least 20 home runs.
HE SAID IT
"I was so excited because I'm finally doing something for my team coming from the dugout. It's one of my first hits coming from pinch-hitting and I was so excited running the bases.' -- Puig, who hit his second career pinch-hit home run and has gone 4-for-14 as a pinch-hitter this season
After a day off Thursday, left-hander Rich Hill will take the mound Friday when the Dodgers open their final home series of the season, a three-game set against the Padres. Hill has given up four earned runs in each of his last three starts, but the Dodgers have scored a whopping 49 runs over the last five games he has started. The Padres will counter with left-hander Eric Lauer.
Doug Padilla is a contributor to MLB.com.