He’s famous for flipping his bat that borders on arrogance, yet the Cuban star is playing with unbridled exuberance which often makes him look crazy. He’s best known for gawking as the ball soars into the sky and falls gently over the wall that personifies his brashness, yet the Dodgers star Yasiel Puig is enjoying himself which often makes him look troubled.
He’s showing appreciation to the fans showering him with chants of “Let’s go, Puig” every time he steps to the plate, egging him on to uncork a double, a triple, or even a home run and then wag his tongue like a madman. Turns out he’s a horse running wild on the Dodger Stadium grass. Can we ever look at him as a superstar? With his flamboyant style, swagger and star power, Puig morphed himself from a borderline bust to a crowd-pleaser and has entertained the spectators by putting on show. Fun to watch a tongue-wagging, bat-licking, fun-loving, slugging wild horse that a franchise rounded up when he fled his native country Cuba. The fascinating part of this wild October is how Puig is that energy booster for the Dodgers. So, once again, he was a shot of energy for a 5-2 Dodgers victory in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.
His 2-for-4, two-RBI performance gave the Dodgers a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven series, as they remain unbeaten this October. Playing against the defending champion Chicago Cubs, who defeated Los Angeles in six games en route to winning their first world championship in 108 years, Puig has a bigger appetite than them. Everybody is particularly impressed by the strides he has taken over the last week towards calling his shots, as he did on Saturday, with his team trailing 2-0 in the fifth inning when he put the Dodgers on the board with a bat-flip RBI double off the left-field wall. Charlie Culberson, replacing the injured Corey Seager, who was left off the NLCS roster to nurse a back strain, followed that up with a game-tying sacrifice fly to bring home Barnes.
For Puig, who is having the time of his life, it was merely the mirror image of his old self. This postseason, between what seems to be nearly every plate appearance for him, the ball comes off his bat and flies through the night sky to drop into the left-field gap or over the fence. It was his second at-bat of the night, a fantastic moment of his career, that he went yard off left-handed reliever Mike Montgomery and recorded his first-ever home run of the postseason in the seventh inning. He halted at the plate to watch the ball land into the stands for a souvenir beyond the left-field wall that gave the Dodgers a 4-2 lead. After rounding the bases, he descended the dugout steps and was greeted by the entire team with warm receptions, then he emerged from the dugout for a curtain call.
All things considered, Puig is as good a player as there is on the planet, in large part because he’s batting .467 with two doubles a triple, a home run and six RBIs. The 26-year-old Cuban star is pulling a little blue wagon loaded with magic wands, 8-Balls and a large magic box with a wild horse inside. On top of being a flashy magician, he’s as animated as ever, a living cartoon character only making things more enjoyable.
He’s that irritating kid banging on his dad’s bedroom door to wake him up for batting practice. It wasn’t annoying, however, yet impressive for Puig to wake up the Dodgers with a double and homer, which probably didn’t bug the heck out of Dodger dads. As confident as Puig rightly is, he has opened the Cracker Jack box to see what’s inside, and indeed, there’s his hot-swinging bat, which has not only been a surprise but also has made the Dodgers worthy of a World Series. He can achieve most anything he puts his mind to —leaving his mark in the postseason.
A walk, a double and a sacrifice fly ended the night for the Chicago lefty Jose Quintana. Most of the damage came in the fifth when he threw a bevy of wayward pitches. It was this point that Cubs manager Joe Maddon pulled his Game 1 starter and then decided to give the ball to right-hander Hector Rendon. With the game tied 2-2, Chris Taylor greeted Rendon with a go-ahead solo blast to begin the sixth.
So far this fall, good things have happened for the Dodgers. This year’s team is hungrier and far more deft, led by Puiggy and a stronger bullpen that continues to say good night to Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras to name a few. It has been a thrilling ride so far for Puig, who has reached base at least twice in all four of their games and gone 7-for-15 in that span. A big part of what has made him so warmly embraced is his blend of enthusiasm, intensity and an act of bravado.
It was a night that Puig played rather brilliantly and extraordinarily, showing off his unpredictable nature and natural talents. If not for him, the Dodgers probably wouldn’t be where they are now. Just 14 months ago, Puig’s stay in L.A. was coming to an ugly end and he had been demoted to the minors. Worn down by his struggles, poor hitting and demeanor, the future in a Dodgers uniform was uncertain. When he was called back up, he was inserted in the lineup mainly for his defense and terribly posted a .220 average at the very bottom of the order. The upside of the move was only designed to refine his swing and sharpen his approach.
Where he takes a step forward in his game, and, as far as his personality, is his patience and maturity, even though he’s still being himself while having fun. And when he’s having a good time, the spirited Dodgers have a great time as well and play with the same kind of passion he brings to the field.
The Dodgers, who wrote their own history all summer long, now must write an even better script this fall. As luck would have it, the march that once hindered the team’s championship hopes and brought with it crushing losses now symbolizes a new beginning.