Puig goes off on bobblehead night
LOS ANGELES -- At times such as this, ignorance truly can be bliss for a ballplayer with a job to do. As trade winds swirled all day around the Dodgers, Yasiel Puig was focused on mom, bobbleheads and, finally, pitches landing in his happy zone.
Rumors that he could be on the block with the non-waiver Trade Deadline looming on Friday at 1 p.m. PT never reached him, Puig insisted in the afterglow of a 10-7 victory on Wednesday night that gave the Dodgers an Interleague split with the Athletics.
"I don't read English," Puig said, in English.
It had been an eventful day, even for Puig, whose life is an ongoing reality show of its own. His mother threw out the ceremonial first pitch as fans clutched their Puig bobblehead -- he's diving for a fly ball -- in a festive Dodger Stadium crowd numbering 51,788.
After crushing a two-run homer to deliver a two-run lead in the fourth inning, Puig came through again with a two-out run-scoring single during a five-run seventh inning that was the difference.
"I'm going to talk to the Dodgers," Puig said in Spanish through a translator, "and see if they can do more bobblehead nights -- and have my mom throw out the first pitch as much as possible."
Maybe he's on to something. Puig, according to club research, is the first Dodgers player to go deep on his bobblehead night since Hanley Ramirez in April 2013. Puig is 4-for-7 with four RBIs on the two occasions his likeness has been presented to fans.
Boisterous by nature, with a booming voice, Puig has been quiet with the bat of late, his average dipping all the way to .249 as the night began. If he felt any tension in the rumor-filled air, he did a fine job of concealing it.
There were rumblings near and far that Puig could be involved in a deal for a front-line starting pitcher. The Dodgers put such talk to rest, insisting the gifted Cuban was staying right where he is.
"It's not a distraction for me at all," Puig said, adding that he was unaware of any contact between management and his agent over his status. "No one really knows anything. It's gossip you guys are trying to write."
And if it did happen, out of the blue, and he was sent elsewhere?
"I have nothing to do with any of the trade rumors," Puig said. "In baseball, people go through slumps. If it goes to the point that the Dodgers decide to trade me, I'll go to that team and do my best."
Puig was not part of the Dodgers' reported deals involving the Marlins and Braves that reportedly were close to completion. The moves would bring four pitchers (Mat Latos, Alex Wood, Jim Johnson and Luis Avilan) along with infielder Jose Peraza and outfielder Michael Morse to the Dodgers at the cost of Cuban infielder Hector Olivera, reliever Paco Rodriguez and three pitching prospects.
Puig's night, apart from catching a nice pregame toss by his mother, didn't get off to a bang-up start. With runners at the corners in the first, Andre Ethier having given Mike Bolsinger a lead with a two-out RBI single, Puig popped out against right-hander Jesse Chavez.
In his next at-bat, following Ethier's leadoff double in the fourth, Puig launched his seventh homer of the season over the wall in left.
"Home runs always feel good," he said, beaming.
Puig tapped out in his third at-bat. Then came the seventh, the A's having scored four times in the top half to seize a three-run lead.
With two outs and two runners aboard, Adrian Gonzalez slammed a run-scoring double to center off lefty Drew Pomeranz. Yasmani Grandal smashed bullets foul down both lines before a slow roller stayed fair for a single, cashing in a run.
Kiké Hernandez, batting in Ethier's spot after a double switch, lashed a go-ahead two-run double to the left-center gap. Summoned to face Puig, right-hander Dan Otero went to a full count before Puig slashed an RBI single to left. He was out at second trying to advance, but nobody was complaining.
"Yasiel obviously had a big game -- home run and a big hit," manager Don Mattingly said.
Eight two-out runs producing a victory can make everything feel right in any clubhouse. With the Giants breathing down their necks in a lively National League West race, the Dodgers got what they needed after losing four of the previous seven while scoring only 20 runs.
Now back to those trade winds.
"We'll know what we have" by Friday afternoon, Mattingly said, referring to his ever-changing roster.
Known as "The Hit Man" when he powered the Bronx Bombers in a time preceding social media and rampant rumors, Mattingly clearly is looking forward to August, when the focus falls entirely on the games and races.