Puig's homer sets stage for wild walk-off in LA
Breakout rookie ties it with fourth big fly in first five games
LOS ANGELES -- It's taken five games, but he's finally being taken seriously.
Yasiel Puig was intentionally walked on Friday night.
By then, Puig had already continued his assault on the MLB record book with a fourth home run in five games, a tying solo shot in the sixth inning. Then with one out in the bottom of the 10th, pinch-runner Skip Schumaker scored on a wild pitch (with Puig on deck) to give the Dodgers their first walk-off win of the year, 2-1 over the Braves at Dodger Stadium.
Hyun-Jin Ryu matched Zack Greinke from the night before with an overlooked performance by a starter, rebounding stoutly with 7 2/3 innings after missing a start in Denver five days earlier with a foot bruise.
But Ryu was overlooked because of Puig, whose 10 RBIs tied the Major League record for the first five games of a career with the Nationals' Danny Espinosa in 2010 and Jack Merson of the 1951 Pirates.
And the only other player in the modern era (since 1900) with four homers in his first five games is the Mets' Mike Jacobs in 2005 (only four games).
"It's been storybook," said manager Don Mattingly. "I'm talking on the bench and saying if a guy gets a hit he's going to hit it to Puig and he's going to throw him out at the plate and hit an inside-the-parker or something. It's just crazy stuff every night. Nothing really surprises us anymore."
Puig has four homers in 19 big league at-bats after slugging eight in 147 at-bats at Double-A Chattanooga, but he's been schooled well enough not to imply that the big leagues are easier than the Minors when asked why he's homering at a higher rate here than there.
"I don't know," Puig said.
Braves starter Paul Maholm said Puig hit a mistake pitch and cautioned Puig-maniacs to temper their enthusiasm.
"On the home run, to be honest I missed by about three feet," said Maholm, who beat a Puig-less Dodgers in Atlanta last month. "I wasn't even trying to throw it anywhere close to the zone. I wasn't mad that he hit a home run. I was mad it was supposed to be bounced two feet in front of the plate to set up another pitch. But he's hot and I hung one. He's come up, and he's hot. I got him out easy the first two times. I missed horrible on the pitch, and he hit a home run.
"He's hot and it happens. But let's not crown him a Hall of Famer yet. Obviously he's talented. The league is going to make adjustments to him and he's going to have to make adjustments. He's a free-swinger. So you've just got to make pitches."
The Dodgers are jumping on board for as long as Puig is able to carry them.
"Right now he brings an energy we were missing," said seasoned backup catcher Ramon Hernandez, who got the winning rally started with his second hit of the game and took second on losing reliever Anthony Varvaro's first wild pitch of the inning.
Luis Cruz singled sharply to left as Hernandez reached third to bring up Juan Uribe, with Schumaker sent in to run for Hernandez. Varvaro bounced a 1-0 curveball to the backstop and Schumaker sprinted home with a headfirst slide as the Dodgers won and Schumaker lost his jersey.
"To tell you the truth, I was hoping for a game-winning hit so I could come in and not get shredded," said Schumaker.
Ryu, who missed a start at Coors Field Sunday, returned with the kind of dominance he showed in his previous start, a two-hitter against the Angels.
"When you see stuff like tonight, it's the reason you don't want to let him go out there and pitch when his foot is sore," said Mattingly. "You can't afford to let this guy do anything that would hurt himself. And not just him, but any of our guys. But he really knows what he's doing. He's fun to watch pitch. It's just been special to watch."
Ryu was removed after 7 2/3 innings following an infield single by Justin Upton, Mattingly bringing on Paco Rodriguez to face Freddie Freeman, who had hit Ryu hard, going 2-for-3. Freeman singled off Rodriguez, but Kenley Jansen got Evan Gattis on a popup.
Ryu was charged with one run on six hits, six strikeouts and one walk. In his last two starts, Ryu has 13 strikeouts and one walk. He has a 1.97 ERA at Dodger Stadium.
"I definitely feel more in shape. I feel more balanced on the mound," said Ryu. "I finally have been able to get accustomed to the ball, so I think that might be why my velocity is increasing."
Atlanta took the early lead in the fourth inning. Freeman doubled leading off, took third on Gattis' grounder to the right side and scored on Dan Uggla's two-out single past a diving Jerry Hairston at third base.
That lead held up until two outs in the sixth inning when Puig did his thing. The at-bat started pretty funny, with Puig faking a bunt and taking strike one on a curveball. Maholm hung the next another curveball and Puig launched a moonshot into the left-field pavilion. It was the seventh consecutive home run hit by a Dodgers rookie this year, the longest streak since 2007.