It kind of came as a surprise and out of nowhere when Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said in his post-game interview after Monday night’s 6-5 win over the Miami Marlins at Dodger Stadium that he credits a little game that Dodgers star outfielder Yasiel Puig and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez play between themselves during the games for making Puig a better hitter this season.
“Adrian helps him with a little game they play about who gets on base the most during a series,” said Mattingly. “I think that’s really good for him to keep that focus to get a good pitch to hit.”
When asked to elaborate, Mattingly became a little coy.
“You’ll have to talk to [Puig], but I think it’s who gets on base the most or something like that.”
So I did talk to Puig.
“Yes, Adrian is always helping me,” said Puig through an interpreter. “And thanks to this game we came up with which is that we compete against each other of who can reach base more, I’m taking my time more at my at bats, I’m picking good pitches [and] I’m getting walked more.”
Judging by the results, it appears that Puig is winning the game over AGon.
“I’m always winning,” Puig added with a good-natured laugh.
On Monday night Puig was indeed the winner. With two on and two outs in the bottom of the 4th inning, Puig absolutely crushed a first-pitch hanging slider off of Marlins right-hander Tom Koehler that landed halfway up the Left Field Pavilion giving the Dodgers a 4-3 lead and extending Puig’s hitting streak to 12 games. Puig also received a bases loaded walk in the 5th inning to give him four RBIs on the night and 29 on the season – two ahead of (you guessed it) Adrian Gonzalez for the team lead.
Dodgers right-hander Dan Haren collected his fifth win of the season (against only one loss) and was quick to credit Puig for helping him and the Dodgers get the win.
“Puig’s been awesome,” said Haren. “With him, people don’t really throw him too many strikes [because] he hammers the ball in the zone. He gets pounded in[side] quite a bit and from my experience as a pitcher, it’s very hard to throw strikes inside. So when you see them like that, he’s been taking it lately, taking it for a ball and then he’s going to get into a better count and either make the pitcher come into him or walk him. He’s been taking his walks and if he’s going to take his walks, he’s going to get better pitches to hit and get on base more and score more runs and do everything,” added Haren.
Whether it’s the game within the game, the normal maturation process, the coaching, or whatever, we as fans are watching the rise of a superstar and something very special in Yasiel Puig – and he is only going to get better.