2017 NLDS: Yasiel Puig Providing Spark For Dodgers
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Yasiel Puig was at it again in Game 2 of the National League Division Series, delivering key hits and providing a jolt that reverberated throughout Dodger Stadium. He helped lead the Los Angeles Dodgers to another win over the Arizona Diamondbacks and a 2-0 lead in the NLDS.

It was just over one year ago that Puig was in turmoil with his own organization. His behavior and inconsistent work ethic led to the Dodgers attempting to trade their dynamic right fielder. Unable to move Puig at the non-waiver deadline, the Dodgers demoted him to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Puig’s future with the organization was unclear. Los Angeles had acquired Josh Reddick alongside Rich Hill, and he was given the everyday role in right field. Puig went into this season hoping to reclaim his starting job.

His play throughout the year justified as much, and so too did Puig’s ability to refocus after being benched in consecutive games late last month. He’s arguably been the Dodgers best players through the first two games of the playoffs.

“He’s full of energy and emotion. I was talking to the coaches, and this is as good as we’ve seen him focus on every single pitch in the game,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said after Game 2.

“When you combine that with the skill set that he has and the energy that he brings, he doesn’t only energize 50,000 people, he energizes everyone in the clubhouse. So when he’s in the box, making plays with his arm, his glove, on the bases, it’s exciting.”

Puig went 2-for-5 with a double, triple and two RBI in Game 1. He backed that up Saturday night by going 3-for-4 with two RBI. Logan Forsythe, Austin Barnes and Puig combined to go 8-for-12 with five runs scored, five RBI and one walk as the sixth, seventh and eight hitters.

One night after licking his bat and wagging his tongue at teammates, there were more gestures and celebrations on the bases with each pivotal hit. “It’s fun, because the last two postseasons I didn’t play too much,” Puig said.

“Now I play every day and the reason I have fun is because all of my teammates helped me a lot from Spring Training until now. Everybody like Kiké and other teammates do something in the dugout, so I do something on first base.”

A “Let’s Go Puig!” chant broke out at Dodger Stadium late in Game 2, offering a slight break from the customary chorus of “Puuuiiiggg.”

“If you hit, the people are going to yell your name,” Puig said. “If you strike out, who’s going to yell your name?”

When Roberts publicly chided Puig two weeks ago, his criticism included delivering a reminder of the team-first mentality the clubhouse culture is built on. His message did not fall on deaf ears.

“He’s really come a long way. He cares so much about his teammates, and I think the coaches have done an amazing job with Yasiel, just kind of loving on him, teaching him the game,” Roberts said.

“Now you have the trust and the openness, and he’s all about winning. He’s a very talented player, but all he cares about is winning. There are 24 guys in the clubhouse that have that only purpose and care as well. So when you’ve got that with a lot of good players, it’s a good thing.”