Ryu leads two-hitter as Dodgers blank Angels
Puig's rally-killing catch, hot bats secure Freeway Series win
ANAHEIM -- In the past week, Yasiel Puig has made smart baseball plays, and he's made head-scratching baseball plays. He's wagged his finger like Dikembe Mutombo, and he's stood idly by as Albert Pujols taught him a lesson about hustle.
And then there was Thursday night -- when Puig just might have saved a game.
The Dodgers were up by four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu was on the mound, and the Angels had runners on second and third for cleanup hitter Josh Hamilton. The Angels slugger drilled a ball to left-center, where Puig -- in full sprint -- leaped and caught the ball near the top of the wall while slamming into it.
The catch took extra bases and two RBIs away from Hamilton and preserved a shutout for Ryu. From there, the Dodgers stepped on the gas pedal, adding two runs in the eighth and another in the ninth to take the game, 7-0, and the Freeway Series, three games to one.
"That was great," right fielder Matt Kemp said. "That could've been a big turnaround if he didn't make that catch."
Added Angels manager Mike Scioscia: "He went a long way for that ball. That gets us back in the game right there. Josh hit it well. The air was kind of heavy. It seems he just didn't quite get enough to get it out."
It was the second game-changing defensive play Puig has made in as many games. On Wednesday, Puig threw out catcher Hank Conger trying to advance to third on a one-out single in the sixth, stomping out an Angels' rally in a 2-0 game.
On Thursday, he combined with the slick-fielding Miguel Rojas at short to lend plenty of support to the dazzling Ryu on the mound.
One night after Dan Haren retired the first 16 batters he faced, Ryu took a no-hitter into the fifth inning, shutting down the Angels in dominating fashion. He gave up two hits in seven innings, striking out four and walking one for his 13th win of the season.
The first hit he allowed came with one out in the fifth inning, a double to David Freese. But Ryu didn't run into trouble until an inning later, when a two-out double by Pujols set the table for Puig's running catch in center field.
"I thought he did a nice job of changing speeds, using both sides of the plate," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He was able to keep them off balance enough and use all of his pitches. He's a guy that's a handful for anybody, and adding the slider is another weapon for him."
Along with defensive support, the Dodgers offense gave Ryu plenty of padding, too.
For the second straight night, the Dodgers got on the board early, tagging Angels starter C.J. Wilson with three runs in the top of the third. Designated hitter Hanley Ramirez singled to center with the bases loaded, driving in Justin Turner and Puig, then Kemp hit a sacrifice fly to push the margin to three runs.
The Dodgers tacked on their fourth run in the sixth, when Juan Uribe doubled to score Kemp from first with two outs in the sixth. Wilson came out of the game one batter later, walking A.J. Ellis. He issued four walks and gave up six hits in 5 2/3 innings.
In the eighth, Gonzalez provided the Dodgers with some insurance, driving in two runs with a bases-loaded single up the middle, and Rojas added another run for good measure in the ninth with an RBI single.
"We had a good time hitting today," said Kemp, who was ejected after striking out on a check swing in the eighth. "Uribe had a big hit. Puig was on there, causing havoc on the bases. It was just a good team win today -- good defense, good offense in pitching."
That good team win threatened to unravel in the bottom of the sixth, when Hamilton powered a ball to left-center. But Puig was there to make the catch -- and for that, his manager was thankful. After an up-and-down week, Mattingly has noticed Puig's renewed focus, his increased care on the defensive end.
"Honestly, I appreciate it," Mattingly said. "I know Yas plays with a flare, but I think last night, there's a beauty to getting rid of the ball, hitting the cutoff man, getting the ball to the right place. There's a beauty in this game of doing that. And Yasiel has shown us the last couple of night that he knows exactly what that means."