Puig capped off his first calendar month as a Major Leaguer in predictable four-for-five fashion Sunday including a bloop triple, a double and two stolen bases. The only surprise came when he struck out on a high fastball in the eighth inning. If ever a cycle seemed imminent, it was then. Even Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said he wouldn’t have been surprised to see it.
Puig’s 44 hits since being called up on June 3 are not only a monthly rookie record in Dodgers history — breaking Steve Sax’s 43 in August of 1982 — but they’re the second-highest total for a player’s first calendar month in MLB history behind only Joe DiMaggio (48, May 1936).
Puig and DiMaggio are the only two players to collect at least 40 hits and four home runs in that month too.
“I’m really excited to be part of that list,” Puig said Sunday, “but more excited that the team is winning.”
Puig has injected new life into a beat-up Dodgers team that suddenly finds itself just four games behind the National League West-leading Arizona Diamondbacks. They’ve won eight of nine scoring 4.33 runs per game in that span. Through their first 72 games, the Dodgers logged just 3.45.
They boast arguably the scariest lineup in the league with red-hot Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier and Puig forming a pitcher’s roadblock that Mattingly compared to “going through Boardwalk and Park Place” in Monopoly. But it’s Puig who has undoubtedly served as the catalyst in the Dodgers’ turnaround.
He’s hit for power, cranking seven home runs, 13 extra-base hits and 16 runs batted in, and his .436 batting average leads all MLB players with at least 75 plate appearances.
The 22-year-old Cuban sensation is drawing “M.V.Puig” chants after only 26 games, for goodness sake.
“It doesn’t seem like he’s slowing down,” catcher A.J. Ellis said. “He’s definitely changed the culture in the clubhouse.”
The question becomes what Puig can do the last three months of the regular season. Kemp indicated that he’s never experienced a hot streak like this. Closing in on 30 games, the tear is getting to the point where the outrageous production is expected.
Mattingly said he expects something new from Puig every day. Who knows, maybe he’ll come right back and get the cycle Tuesday when the Dodgers open a three-game series in Colorado.
“Honestly I shouldn’t doubt him at all but .440s a pretty tough clip to maintain,” Mattingly said. “… You kind of expect him to do something every day.”