Puig ends wild rookie year with work to do
Electric outfielder shows defensive lapses as Dodgers eliminated
ST. LOUIS -- For his final act of the 2013 season, the often-entertaining Yasiel Puig performed a mistake-riddled hat trick he would prefer not to repeat.
Puig committed three defensive misplays in Friday night's Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, facilitating the Cardinals' 9-0 rout that propelled them to the World Series and sent the Dodgers home.
Puig's tendency to play at full throttle made him probably the game's most electrifying rookie. But the right fielder's unbridled style occasionally prompts errors -- from those that are labeled as such by the official scorer to fundamental lapses.
Puig unleashed two wayward throws in the third inning that abetted St. Louis' four-run uprising.
With one out and Matt Carpenter at second base, Puig fielded Carlos Beltran's RBI single and made an off-line throw toward the infield. Puig's imprecise relay enabled Beltran to reach second base, though first baseman Adrian Gonzalez did not come up cleanly with the ball.
Later in the inning, Puig gathered Shane Robinson's two-out, bases-loaded, two-run single and overthrew catcher A.J. Ellis. Puig's mistake did not figure in the Cardinals' scoring, though it allowed Robinson and Matt Adams to advance an extra base.
Puig goofed again in St. Louis' five-run fifth inning, which started with Yadier Molina's single. The ball skipped by Puig, giving Molina a free trip to second base and refreshing the Cardinals' momentum.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly contained his exasperation with Puig, who recorded eight assists but also five errors that resulted in a .971 fielding percentage during the regular season.
"Sitting there watching it tonight, and it's what we've kind of watched all year long, it's like you don't have time to work on it, really," Mattingly said. "You kind of go over it and you try to teach. You just continue to try to teach. Not just him, but all of us, really, you know? Yasiel gets excited. He's going to try to make plays all the time, and that's the way he is. But we've got to do a better job, I think, of helping him to mature and understand what we want done and the way to do it."
Asked to summarize what he learned this season, Puig indicated awareness of the room he had for improvement.
"The one thing that stood out was that every run, every at-bat, every play in the field needs to be very important," he said through an interpreter. "You have to make sure you do your best to be good."
Given the extent of the Dodgers' unraveling in the third inning, the collaboration between Puig and Gonzalez in helping Beltran reach second base could be considered a minor lapse.
"All they needed was the one run, the way we swung the bats today," Gonzalez said. "So that second run didn't mean much."
But Ellis emphasized the importance of limiting Beltran's advance. "Keeping double plays in order are huge in the game of baseball," he said.
Puig's elevated throw home later in the third was the type of overexuberant error Mattingly cited. Puig's inability to field Molina's hit cleanly two innings later also appeared preventable.
"The ball hit the ground and skidded a little bit," Puig said. "It hit my glove. I couldn't hold onto it. Molina ended up getting to second base. I wish he wouldn't have gotten there, but errors are part of the game."