It’s hard to argue that Tuesday night’s game wasn’t among the most exciting games of the year for the Dodgers. I mean, when was the last time you can remember the Dodgers coming back from an 8-3 deficit to win? And while starter Chris Capuano and reliever Carlos Marmol tried their very best to bring a screeching halt the the Dodgers 4-game winning streak, the Dodger offense would have no part of that.
Trailing 8-6 in the top of the 8th inning, Dodger first baseman Adrian Gonzalez launched an absolute monster 3-run home run to straightaway center that had to be every bit of 430 feet. Two batters later, Andre Ethier followed with a solo shot to right to give the Dodgers a 10-8 lead and an eventual 10-9 victory.
But lost in the excitement of AGon’s and Ethier’s back-breaking blows to the Blue Jays was a simple at bat that in any other situation might have been meaningless, but was instead perhaps one of the most important at bats of the season. It was a seven-pitch walk issued to Yasiel Puig just prior to AGon’s blast.
How can a walk be considered one of the most important at bats of the season? Because Puig has been completely lost at the plate and has been striking out on pitches not just a little off the plate but way off the plate. And while hitting coaches Mark McGwire and John Valintin have undoubtedly been working long hours trying to get Puig back to the dominant hitter that he was when he first arrived nearly two months ago, the one thing that they cannot teach him is plate discipline and laying off those sliders that are often a foot or more off the plate. The only person who can teach this to Puig is Puig himself and the only way to do it is by taking these pitches.
With Puig flailing away at pitches off the plate, why on earth would a pitcher throw Puig a strike, especially on the first pitch since he is a notorious first pitch swinger? Or at least he was a first pitch swinger. If Puig begins taking these pitches and starts drawing walks, opposing pitchers will have no choice but to start throwing strikes to him – and we all know what happens when they do that.
This is exactly what Puig did in his 8th inning at bat. After taking the first pitch for a ball, Puig took strike one and swung and missed at strike two. He then took two balls, one of which was probably strike three but he got the call for ball three. After fouling the next pitch off, Puig took an inside pitch for ball four. Say what you will, but this was a huge at bat for Yasiel Puig.
And that 8th inning walk wasn’t the first successful at bat of the night for Yasiel either. After striking out horribly in the first inning (on sliders way off the plate), he hit the sixth pitch of his at bat in the 4th inning for an infield single, was hit by the first pitch in the 5th inning, and hit the second pitch in the 7th inning for another infield single (I’ll give him the regression on that at bat because he hit a curveball that was a strike).
When all was said and done, Puig went 2 for 3 on the night with 2 runs scored, a walk, a HBP and a strikeout. But most important, after his first inning strikeout, Puig showed very good plate discipline; the kind of plate discipline that is going to force pitchers to throw strikes to him or run the risk of walking him in front of Adrian Gonzalez – and that didn’t work out so well for the Blue Jays on Tuesday night.
If what we saw in Puig at bats on Tuesday evening are any indication of what is to come, it is quite possible that he has turned the corner on his painful slump. If that is the case… look out.