Yasiel Puig slugged a pair of two-run home runs in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ rout of the San Diego Padres on Thursday. It gave Puig three homers in his past two games. He enters play Friday leading the National League in home runs, and tied with Houston Astros right fielder George Springer for most in the Majors.
While starting each of the Dodgers’ four games this week, Puig has hit eighth in three of the contests. Batting that low in the lineup is new to the 26-year-old, but Puig is taking it in stride and remaining focused on producing.
“I’m not worried about being the home run leader because when I start worrying about things like that, that’s when bad things happen,” Puig explained through a translator following Thursday’s win. “I just go out there and have fun and whatever happens, happens.”
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts previously remarked he’d be inclined to move Puig up in the order if his production warranted it. Even with Puig’s hot start to the season, the second-year manager isn’t prepared to make take such action.
“Each game is separate. He’s having good at-bats, and that’s what we expect of him,” Roberts said. “I’m not going to play the game of every single time he has a good game, we move him up, and if he has a bad game we move him down. That’s not how it works.
“I like the way the lineup is constructed. We’re trying to win baseball games, it’s not about where one player hits in the order.” Roberts acknowledged a change would be warranted should Puig continue to produce.
“Right now he’s being disciplined with his approach and continuing to work through his mechanics,” Roberts said. “He’s swinging at strikes and taking balls, and we look forward to him sustaining this.
“When Yasiel is focused he’s very dangerous. Regardless of where you put him in the order, when he’s like that, he’s a very dangerous hitter.”
In light of his comments, Roberts does have Puig batting cleanup in Friday’s lineup against Colorado Rockies left-hander Kyle Freeland.
His dynamic talent and game-changing ability be damned, Puig this season is more of a luxury and difference-maker to the Dodgers than a necessary component to success. He was humbled by a demotion last August to Triple-A Oklahoma City, and the change hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“From when I’ve seen Yasiel in years past to now, he’s really grown up,” Roberts said. “And we’re asking him to continue to try and grow as a baseball player and man, as we do all of our guys. He’s really come a long way. It’s a credit to him.”
What the Dodgers would welcome from the previous seasons is Puig’s ability to impact a game. “Puig hitting like that, waffling balls all over and stealing bases, that’s the Puig we need,” Brandon McCarthy said. “And that’s the Puig that everybody hated facing years ago and people love to watch now.”