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Dodgers take notice when Yasiel Puig makes the right impact

BaseballYasiel PuigLos Angeles AngelsA.J. EllisAlbert PujolsChris IannettaJosh Hamilton
Yasiel Puig is playing like he's eager to learn from his mistakes
Yasiel Puig's makes an impressive throw to gun out Hank Conger at third base in Dodgers' 2-1 win over Angels

Dan Haren flirting with a perfect game, that was something. Matt Kemp continuing to reawaken his power game, truly impressive. With the tying run on second with no outs and Kenley Jansen retired Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton to earn his 32ndsave, that’s great baseball.

But there was something else Wednesday in the Dodgers’ 2-1 victory over the Angels that may have been just as impressive in its own right:

Yasiel Puig’s defensive plays.

Maybe when this is all over, the Dodgers will owe a bit of gratitude toward Pujols for embarrassing Puig on Monday night when he tagged at first and took second while a distracted Puig made a too-casual catch in center.

On Wednesday night, Puig played like someone who wants to learn from mistakes, and is.

He actually caught a fly ball in center with two hands. Caught it in front of his chest and everything. That doesn’t mean he also didn’t resort to that styling one-handed-catch thing later, but it’s a start.

Then when Hank Conger broke up Haren’s perfect game with a one-out single in the sixth and then tried to take third on a basehit by John McDonald to center, Puig fielded it and threw on a line to third to just nip Conger.

“It changed the complexion of the game, the complexion of Danny’s start,” catcher A.J. Ellis said. “It was just a great, accurate throw.”

But wait, there’s more! In the eighth, the Angels, trailing 2-0, put runners on the corners with one out, and Chris Iannetta sent a fly to Puig in fairly deep center. Erick Aybar tagged and you just knew Puig wanted to show off his mighty arm and throw him out at the plate.

But he made the smart play. He made the catch and fired to second to prevent the tying run from advancing.

“The best decision he made was hitting the cutoff man in the eighth inning on Iannetta’s sac fly,” Ellis said. “To throw just a bullet to second base and keep the tying run at first, give [reliever Brandon League] a chance to get out of the inning.

“Those were two really accurate, really smart baseball plays that don’t go unnoticed in here. It’s winning baseball plays.”

Puig’s improvement this season is not on some magical straight trajectory. There have been more ups, but the downs still show up. They will again too.

But he has come a long way from that raw player of last year, the player you could never be certain would do the right thing.

The Dodgers had a nice win Wednesday, received some big performances. And even if a fairly quiet one was from Puig, it’s progress.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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BaseballYasiel PuigLos Angeles AngelsA.J. EllisAlbert PujolsChris IannettaJosh Hamilton
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