The lightning rod that is Yasiel Puig has struck twice in the past three games, lending to frustration and celebration for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Puig has spent much of the 2016 season with his success at the plate, or lack thereof, under a microscope.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts’ frequency in addressing Puig’s approach, quality of at-bats and assortment of other hitting-related topics suggest such discussions are a mandate for the rookie skipper.
The conversation took a different turn Tuesday night when Roberts revealed Puig was benched in the seventh inning, not removed due to an apparent injury. “When we talk about playing the right way, we have to be accountable,” Roberts said.
With runners on the corners and one out in the sixth inning, Puig drove a high fly ball to right field. He admired his hit, watching it carry through the night, only for Dodger Stadium to keep it within the field of play.
Puig was left with an RBI single that caromed off the right field fence. “For me, mental mistakes, we can live with. But in my opinion, he should’ve been on second base,” Roberts further explained of his decision.
Puig’s time on the bases ended with him scoring from second base on a Joey Votto fielding error; an impressive play that electrified the crowd at Dodger Stadium. The talented outfielder then got an earful from a visibly frustrated Roberts upon returning to the dugout.
“That’s something I don’t think any manager wants to do,” Roberts said. Puig was apologetic and understanding of the benching in his postgame remarks. “I thought it was a home run and I didn’t run out the ball obviously,” he said through an interpreter.
“It was his decision to take me out of the game, and it was a decision well made because all of my teammates are working hard on the field. I should have run out that ball. … It was a bad decision on my part, it was a good decision on my manager’s part.”
On Sunday, Puig failed to advance to third base on an A.J. Ellis bunt in the ninth inning. Had he done so, Puig likely would have scored on a subsequent Carl Crawford fly ball to break the tie.
The game instead continued for another eight innings, with Puig again in the middle of the action as he hit a go-ahead, two-run single with the bases loaded in the 17th inning.
Roberts called the situation on Tuesday “an isolated incident,” and a reminder of needing to continue teaching every player on the roster. When asked if he could recall another time he’d been benched in the Majors, Puig directed the question toward his former skipper.
“I don’t remember. You’d have to ask Don Mattingly if he ever benched me,” he said.