Puig hits decisive homer in LA's gutsy three-hitter
Two-out shot follows intentional BB; Beckett sharp despite needing IV
LOS ANGELES -- Yasiel Puig's first home run since he sprained his left thumb April 5 showed the strength is coming back, and he wasn't even fortified by an intravenous feed, like ailing starting pitcher Josh Beckett and center fielder Andre Ethier.
Puig's three-run blast (following an intentional walk to Adrian Gonzalez) and Beckett's five scoreless innings set up the Dodgers' 4-1 win over the D-backs on Sunday, closed out by manager Don Mattingly's rationing of a weary bullpen.
With good news coming from Clayton Kershaw in a pregame simulated game, the ace might soon be back, and so much won't be needed from back-end starters like Beckett and Paul Maholm (Monday night's starter), or from the bullpen.
"We've got one of the best pitchers of the last 10 years on the disabled list, and still, we're going at a pretty good clip even without him," Beckett said of the way the club has picked up in Kershaw's absence.
Kenley Jansen struck out the side for his seventh save, giving him 21 strikeouts in 11 innings. But he's also appeared in 12 of the team's 19 games, a Mike Marshall-like pace of 102 over a 162-game season. "It worries me if he's at this pace," Mattingly conceded.
Brian Wilson, who threw 23 pitches Saturday, warmed up twice Sunday but didn't pitch. Mattingly said he wanted to rest Wilson, but the right-hander remains his primary eighth-inning setup man.
Jamey Wright got the win, big outs were recorded by Chris Perez and J.P. Howell, and for now, the Dodgers remain in first place, thanks in large part to a 7-1 record against Arizona.
Beckett made it through five scoreless innings of one-hit ball, with seven strikeouts and two walks, having made 83 pitches. He is one of many Dodgers who have been fighting off cold/flu symptoms over the past week.
"I've had IVs the past three days, today included," he said. "Ethier [who homered Saturday night after IVs] is my hero. Write that. He's played five days with this. That was the hardest five innings I've ever pitched."
Mattingly was glad to get them, noting that Beckett has turned in solid back-to-back five-inning starts.
"We're seeing him adapt to who he is," Mattingly said of Beckett's transition from relying on pure power to a more varied pitch repertoire. "I've seen him pitch since he was a kid. I still think he's got good enough stuff to win."
Beckett (2.57 ERA) is pleased with his comeback from last year's thoracic outlet syndrome surgery to remove a rib that was pinching a nerve.
"A lot of moving parts have to fall into place," he said. "I'm not throwing 84 or 85 [mph], I've still got the stuff to overpower when I need to, but I have to pick my spots better than I had in the past."
The only hit Beckett allowed turned into another outfield assist for Puig, who nailed catcher Miguel Montero trying to stretch a second-inning single into a double.
It was the type of play that most right fielders would be happy to field cleanly on the warning track and concede second base, but Puig is not like most right fielders.
"He just picked it up and has the confidence to throw a strike to second," said Beckett.
Second-base umpire Scott Barry appeared to call Montero out before shortstop Hanley Ramirez tagged Montero, but D-backs manager Kirk Gibson chose not to appeal after receiving word from the dugout that the replay was inconclusive.
The Dodgers broke the scoreless tie in the bottom of the sixth. With one out, Dee Gordon singled to center. After five pickoff attempts and a pitchout, Gordon raced home on Carl Crawford's triple into the right-field corner. After Ramirez popped out, Gibson had Gonzalez walked intentionally to face Puig, who hit a laser over the fence in left-center for his second homer of the year.
"I think you have to walk him, the way Adrian is swinging and what he did to them last weekend [10 RBIs in three games]," said Mattingly. "I think Gibby would do it every time. The danger is, the ]next] guy is extra motivated, but it's really the right move."
"We decided to put him on and go for Puig," explained Gibson. "Just thought that if we made better pitches, we had a better chance of getting him out. Also, you have the forceout at second base if you need it, too. Colly, as well as he pitched for us, he made a mistake there, and [Puig] made us pay for it."
Said Puig: "It felt great to hit a ball so hard and see that strength in my swing. The coaches and the trainers are helping me out."