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Dodgers experiment with Yasiel Puig hitting leadoff

Dodgers experiment with Yasiel Puig hitting leadoff
Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig hits a home run during the fourth inning of a game against the Miami Marlins on April 25. (Kelvin Kuo / Associated Press)

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."

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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."

Follow Andy McCullough on Twitter @McCulloughTimes

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