While few have questioned the talent Yasiel Puig possesses, there have been issues with consistency since debuting with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2013. A phenomenal rookie season was followed by an All-Star campaign in 2014, but Puig has seen his share of peaks and valleys.
He was mired in a recent slump but has rebounded since serving a two-game suspension after MLB denied an appeal. In nine games (five starts) since returning to the lineup, he’s batting .478/.538/1.304 with one double, six home runs and 11 RBI.
Puig has been on a particular tear through the first three games (two starts) with the St. Louis Cardinals, all of which have been wins for the Dodgers and propelled them into first place in the National League West.
After hitting two home runs on Friday night, Puig followed that with his first career three-home run game. His seven RBI also marked a career-first.
As he slugged one homer after another, the stretch of two games were filled with embraces and kisses between Puig and Dodgers hitting coach Turner Ward. The outgoing outfielder joked about the exchange with Ward after his third home run on Saturday, and said it may be the reason behind his success, per Jorge Castillo of the L.A. Times:
“‘You know what, it’s 1-1,’” Puig recalled telling Ward. “‘I kissed you the first time. You kissed me the second one. Now give me one in the lips.’ But that was a little bit too much. He put his hand in front of his mouth and we kissed each other. I think when I start kissing him, I play better.”
Puig and Ward have developed a strong bond, which Dodgers manager Dave Roberts pointed to as one reason the 27-year-old has seen stretches at the plate where he’s been as good of a hitter as any.
Puig’s latest surge comes at a key time for the Dodgers as they’ve bounced back from a disappointing series with the Cincinnati Reds and have a key three-game set against the Colorado Rockies that begins Monday.