In fact, the Dodgers couldn't really have hoped for more from Puig.
The 22-year-old Cuban defector was called up in time for Monday’s game against San Diego and didn’t waste any time getting acclimated. Puig went 2-for-4 with a single in his first career major league at-bat and made a spectacular play in right field to seal the victory for the Dodgers.
Puig only had 63 games of minor league experience before the Dodgers promoted him from Double-A to the big leagues. Los Angeles signed Puig to a seven-year deal just over a year ago, and with the team struggling through the first chunk of the season, the Dodgers needed a spark to turn their year around.
Puig provided that spark on Monday.
How Did Puig Look at the Plate?
Manager Don Mattingly wanted to get Puig up at the plate as quick as possible, so he put him in the leadoff spot against Eric Stults. In the bottom of the first inning, Puig came up for the first plate appearance of his career.
Battling a 2-2 count, Puig went down a got a 77 mph off-speed pitch from Stults that fell in left-center field for a single, his first big league hit. Puig showed good patience at the plate, but once he had two strikes against him, did what he had to do to protect the plate.
After collecting hit No. 1, some were happy to know that there was still the chance that Puig would hit 1.000 for his career, including Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times.
But the possibility of that happening ended in Puig’s second at-bat of the night, grounding out to third base. Still, having a .500 career batting average isn’t bad, right?
Facing Stults in the bottom of the sixth and with the Dodgers holding a 2-1 lead, Puig came up looking to add a bit of early insurance. After a first-pitch strike, Puig hit an 88 mph fastball toward the right-side hole that Kyle Blanks couldn’t handle at first base. The ball trickled into right field for another single for Puig.
As Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times points out, Puig was nearly outhitting the rest of his teammates after his second hit of the night.
Puig would get one more chance at the plate in the game, coming up with one out and Luis Cruz at second base in the bottom of the eighth inning. He hit another ball to third base, to which Cruz was tagged out, but Puig reached for a fielder’s choice.
While Puig didn’t go 4-for-4 like some may have hoped, 2-for-4 is far from bad. The Dodgers desperately need a consistent bat at the top of their lineup. It seems like Puig is going to be able to provide that.
How Did Puig Look in the Field?
Well, just ask Chris Denorfia.
Puig didn’t see a ton of action in right field, but when he did, he made it count. In the ninth inning, with the Dodgers leading 2-1 and closer Brandon League on the mound, the Padres had a chance to tie the game with a man on and one out.
Kyle Blanks stepped up to the plate and launched a long fly ball to Puig in right field. Puig went back onto the warning track to make the tough catch. But that wasn’t all.
Denorfia was trying to steal on the play so he was close to second base at the time Puig made the catch in deep right. Noticing this, Puig wound up and threw a perfect strike to Adrian Gonzalez at first base, looking to double Denorfia up and clinch the victory for his team.
The ball just barely beat Denorfia to the bag, home-plate umpire Mark Wegner looked to his colleagues and then punched the Padres outfielder out at first base.
Then, Twitter erupted.
Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports didn’t say much, but his point was made:
Scott Miller of CBS Sports said a little more than Rosenthal, but had similar thoughts:
Gonzalez even chimed in after the game, per his Twitter account:
It’s clear that Puig’s arm is something that opponents shouldn’t test. If they think they can beat any sort of throw from the Dodgers outfielder, they’re going to be wrong and get gunned out.
How Did Puig Do Overall?
Well, like I mentioned in the beginning, Puig was great. Even though he didn’t score either of the two Los Angeles runs, he was the reason the Dodgers won the game. Without Puig in right field in the ninth, who knows what would have happened on that play.
At the plate, Puig showed that he could be patient and wait for his pitch, fight off pitches that were close to the plate and make the most of his opportunities to get on base. Puig was called up for his offense—hitting very well in the minors at the time of his promotion—and through one game, it seems that he’ll be fine.
ESPN’s Jim Bowden provided his opinion on what’s just the beginning of what could be an incredible career for Puig:
It may have only been Puig’s first game in the big leagues, but the Dodgers’ decision to promote him is already paying dividends. If he continues to provide consistent offense while playing great defense, Los Angeles could have a true star on its hands.
And as Bowden said, this is just the appetizer.
Overall Grade: A+