Now Manager Don Mattingly makes the move. Not back in the middle of September when Yasiel Puig had hit .209 without a home run since July 31. Right now, Game 4 of the National League division series and the Dodgers’ season on the line.
If it feels a tad panicky, that’s understandable. The Dodgers trail the Cardinals two games to one in their best-of-five series and will meet in an elimination situation Tuesday at Son of Busch Stadium.
So when Mattingly announced his lineup before the game, Puig was out and the nearly forgotten Andre Ethier was starting in center.
Carl Crawford has been moved into the second spot in the order that Puig had been occupying. Puig tripled and scored the Dodgers’ only run in Monday’s 3-1 loss but otherwise has struck out eight times in his last nine at-bats.
“This is our best chance to win today,” Mattingly said repeatedly in his pregame news conference.
After that .209 stretch, Puig was moved up to second in the lineup and responded with a strong 10-game stretch (.419, two homers) that seemed to justify Mattingly’s continued confidence in the talented outfielder. But most of that damage came in hitter-friendly ballparks in Denver and Chicago.
Now Puig looks even more lost at the plate and Mattingly went for the move.
Ethier has started only three games since Sept. 1, though he did hit one of his four homers this season off Cardinals starter Shelby Miller.
The Dodgers lineup: Dee Gordon (second), Crawford (left), Adrian Gonzalez (first), Matt Kemp (right), Hanley Ramirez (shortstop), Ethier (center), Juan Uribe (third), A.J. Ellis (catcher) and Clayton Kershaw (pitcher).
The Cardinals lineup: Matt Carpenter (third), Randal Grichuk (right), Matt Holliday (left), Jhonny Peralta (shortstop), Matt Adams (first), Yadier Molina (catcher), Jon Jay (center), Kolten Wong (second) and Miller (pitcher).