The crowd noise swelled as Yasiel Puig walked to the batter’s box in the first inning at Dodger Stadium on Monday. It peaked when Puig tipped his helmet in recognition of the warm welcome back before he shifted his attention to Clayton Kershaw on the mound. It was his first time in Los Angeles as the enemy. The fans didn’t treat him as one.
“Puig!” throngs yelled at the eccentric, talented, and polarizing former Dodgers right fielder.
Moments later, Puig was smashing an 88-mph slider and admiring his work as the ball landed over the center-field wall for a two-run home run. It was Puig’s second home run as a Cincinnati Red. He might not ever hit a more satisfying one.
The clash with Kershaw, who was making his season debut, began when Puig ripped the first pitch, an 88-mph slider, down the left-field line just foul. He waved at the second, a looping curveball, to fall behind 0-2. He then took a ball high before Kershaw tried going back to his slider. The pitch lacked depth — a problem that plagued Kershaw last season — and didn’t fool Puig. He held his arm up as he rounded first base. He looked back at the Reds’ dugout when he did. The crowd was left stunned and the Reds had a 2-0 lead.