When the Los Angeles Dodgers were mired in a six-game losing streak, manager Dave Roberts attempted to provide a jolt for Yasiel Puig and the overall offense by hitting dynamic outfielder leadoff against the San Diego Padres on May 1.
The lineup shuffle was one day after Roberts gave Puig a night off so he could “clear his mind.” Puig’s first at-bat as the leadoff hitter ended in a foul out just off first base on one pitch. He saw nine pitches in his second at-bat, but grounded out.
Puig finished the day 0-for-4, though he was hardly the only player to come away empty at the plate. He is among the several Dodgers who began the season on a high note at the plate, only to cool off and struggle in recent weeks.
Puig hit safely in nine of the first 10 games, batting .405/.500/.622 over that stretch, with one double, two triples, one home run, five RBIs and five walks in 44 plate appearances.
However, in 19 games (17 starts) after that point, Puig is hitting just .151/.162/.274 with three doubles, two home runs, seven RBIs, one walk and 20 strikeouts in 74 plate appearances.
Roberts hasn’t ruled out again batting Puig in the leadoff spot, but said he would need to see improvement from the 25 year old, via J.P. Hoornstra of the LA Daily News:
“It’s a possibility,” manager Dave Roberts said, “but I think that, for me, he’s got to show a little more consistency in the strike zone. That was something where I wanted to change the mindset. But I think with what Chase (Utley) is doing at the top of the order, and I like Kiké (Hernandez) at the top of the order against left-handers, but for me Yasiel has got to be more aggressive in the zone and less outside the zone.”
Utley has been an unsung hero for the Dodgers this season, hitting atop the order in each of his 22 starts (including Sunday). Through the first 21 games, Utley is batting .300/.382/.444 with six doubles, two triples, one home run and eight RBIs.
Kiké Hernandez is batting .333/.419/.667 with two doubles, two home runs and six RBIs in eight starts where he’s hit leadoff. Puig wasn’t in Sunday’s lineup, with Roberts hoping another day off would benefit him mentally.
On the season, the Cuban native is hitting .236/.288/.391, with a .297 wOBA and 83 wRC+. While Puig has scuttled at the plate, he turned in another defensive highlight on Friday, throwing out former teammate Darwin Barney on his attempt to stretch a single to a double.