Sunday was a long day for the Dodgers – a very long day. Some of the 48,621 in attendance had left but most remained. What had started out as a blazing fast pitchers’ duel ended up becoming a near four-hour marathon. Through 10 innings not one Dodgers or Reds player had stepped on home plate. Reds pitchers had struck out a combined 20 Dodger batters – a new and dubious L.A. Dodger record. They allowed only one walk, an intentional pass to Andre Ethier in the 10th inning.
Although the Dodgers had tallied four hits through 10 innings, only two Dodgers had reached second base all day – one on a two-out double by Dodger third baseman Juan Uribe in the 8th inning and the other on a leadoff single by shortstop Hanley Ramirez in the 10th inning, which was followed by a sacrifice bunt by Skip Schumaker and the intentional walk to Ethier – all of whom were left stranded.
The Reds hadn’t fared much better. Although Dodger pitchers struck out only five Reds through 11 innings, they had allowed only three hits and two walks. One of those hits was a leadoff double in the 6th inning by Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco, who was sacrificed bunted over to third by pitcher Tony Cingrani. Mesoraco was erased in a rundown after a sharp grounder and throw to the plate by Uribe on a drawn-in Dodger infield. Only one other Reds player would reach second base – Joey Votto on a leadoff double in the 7th inning, which was followed by two short fly outs, a walk and a strikeout.
…and then came the bottom of the 11th.
After a leadoff strikeout by pinch hitter Elian Herrera and a pop out to short by Mark Ellis, Dodger superstar phenom Yasiel Puig stepped to the plate. Puig was 0 for 3 on the day with a walk and three strikeouts. There would not be a fourth. Down 0-1 in the count, Puig absolutely crushed a Curtis Partch change-up that landed halfway up the Left Field Pavilion for a walk-off home run – a 424-foot blast that was the first of what will undoubtedly be many walk-off hits in his career. The Dodger Stadium crowd went wild – reminiscent of ‘Manny’s Granny’ on July 22, 2009 against (you guessed it) Dusty Baker’s Cincinnati Reds.
“My teammates told me (Partch) threw a lot of change-ups,” Puig told reporters through an interpreter in the Dodger clubhouse after the game. “I was just looking to hit anything and I got the change-up and I hit it and it goes out of there.”
That’s it – a happy ending to the story, right?
After his now signature bat flip and his home run trot around the bases, Puig did something that Rickey Henderson once did many years ago after a walk-off home run – he slid into home.
“Each player does what he can when he gets to the plate,” said Puig about the slide. “Some people jump, some people slide, some people run. I had a previous teammate on my Cuban team that jumped and when he landed he hurt his ankle, so I decided to slide.”
For Dodger fans who have come to know and love Yasiel Puig, the walk-off slide was no big deal. It was nothing more that Puig’s own way of celebrating his first career walk-off hit with the scrum of his teammates who, of course, shredded his jersey. That’s it. There was nothing more to it. It was not an attempt to show up Partch, the Reds, or anybody else. It was an excited 22-year-old kid sharing his excitement with his teammates – all of whom he has become very close with.
But within seconds of Puig’s celebratory slide, Twitter lit up with angry Reds fans calling it arrogant and a disgrace to the game.
And it didn’t end there. It was reported that MLB Network’s Morgan Ensberg said on the air after seeing a replay of Puig’s home run and celebratory slide “We need to talk.” Are you kidding? Morgan Ensberg? A career .263 hitter who’s only major accomplishment in his 8-year MLB career was a 2005 All-Star appearance for the Houston Astros? A guy with a total of 579 hits and 110 homers over the course of an eight-year career? A guy who retired from the game at the age of 32 because nobody wanted him? If there needs to be a talk between Morgan Ensberg and Yasiel Puig, Ensberg better let Puig do the talking.
The bottom line here is that ‘Haters gonna hate’ and players, former players and fans from opposing teams are jealous that Puig isn’t or wasn’t on their team. These are undoubtedly the same haters who also felt that Puig did not deserve to be an All-Star.
Perhaps these haters should spend a little less time hating and a little more time looking at the NL West standings and how the Dodgers accomplished their historic 26-6 run since June 22.
…but they won’t – because ‘haters gonna hate.’