In an experiment to spark the cold bat of Yasiel Puig, Dodgers Manager Dave Roberts moved him into the leadoff spot for Sunday's series finale. The move looked counterintuitive, giving more at-bats to a player stuck in a rotten stretch of hitting, but Roberts felt it could convey a message.
"It was more of getting him in that mind-set of getting on base," Roberts said. "You look at the last [few weeks] where he's coming out of the strike zone, being extra-aggressive, swinging at balls out of the zone. Putting him in the leadoff spot might temper that a little bit."
The experiment fizzled. Puig popped up the first pitch he saw in Sunday's 1-0 victory, underscoring the ongoing struggles of this offense. During this seven-game homestand, he went two for 24.
He was not the only veteran Dodger to struggle. Adrian Gonzalez went hitless in 20 at-bats. Howie Kendrick went one for 16. Justin Turner hit .217. The lack of production cursed the club during a six-game losing streak. Only a superlative effort by Clayton Kershaw on Sunday ended the skid.
After a stellar first week, Puig hit .194 during the rest of April. He struck out 17 times and walked once. He swung at 41% of the pitches he saw outside the strike zone, the third-highest percentage in the majors.
Roberts rested him Saturday so Puig could clear his head. Before Sunday's game, Roberts offered a measured critique of Puig's approach and his lack of patience. He admitted he felt Puig allowed mistakes early in the game to affect his at-bats later in the game.
"When you start chasing numbers or chasing hits, and you don't get a hit in your first at-bat, the anxiety, the frustration starts to build," Roberts said. "With Yasiel a little bit, he's got to focus on having good at-bats. ... I think that a little bit he's chasing some hits."
Puig went 0 for 4 on Sunday. He saw 15 pitches in all, but nine of them came during an at-bat in the third. He made an out on the second pitch of his third at-bat and the third pitch of his fourth.
"The ultimate goal is to get a hit," Roberts said. But I think, as far as process, it's to have a good at-bat and to put a good swing on the ball. And the more times you do that, you'll get hits. I think that he's getting a little ahead of the process."