Yasiel Puig puts on a show as Dodgers beat Diamondbacks again, 4-1

Yasiel Puig puts on a show as Dodgers beat Diamondbacks again, 4-1
Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig connects for a three-run home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the sixth inning Sunday at Dodger Stadium. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

For the fans at Dodger Stadium, and for the producers of highlight reels everywhere, Yasiel Puig put on the best show on Sunday.

For the Dodgers themselves, Clayton Kershaw put on the best show. The stadium gates were not yet open when Kershaw completed the workout that put him in position to rejoin the Dodgers soon.


The Dodgers might sell the glamour of Puig, but their foundation is what it always has been: pitching, particularly starting pitching. So consider this: the Dodgers are about to add the defending National League Cy Young Award winner to a rotation that boasts a 2.45 earned-run average.

"It's crazy," Josh Beckett said, "to get the best pitcher — not just in baseball, but probably one of the best in the 10 years — off the DL, and we're still going at a pretty good clip without him."

Beckett and four relievers combined on a three-hitter Sunday, in the Dodgers' 4-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. The first-place Dodgers beat Arizona for the seventh time in eight games this season and dropped the Diamondbacks eight games behind in the National League West — with 10 days still left in April.

Puig put on his Sunday best. In the second inning, he had a show-stopping throw, nailing Miguel Montero at second base on what would have been a double with just about any other right fielder in the game. Puig charged hard into the corner, retrieved the ball, turned and threw out Montero — then raised his arm toward the sky to celebrate. Puig leads NL outfielders with four assists, including one in each of his past three games.

In the sixth inning, after Carl Crawford tripled home Dee Gordon to break a scoreless tie, the Dodgers had two out, a man on third and first base open. The Diamondbacks walked the left-handed Adrian Gonzalez so right-hander Josh Collmeter could pitch to the right-handed Puig.

Puig responded with his second home run of the season, this one measured at 422 feet, and a royal bat flip. The three-run homer gave the Dodgers a 4-0 lead. Collmenter was so mad he caught the new baseball, thrown to him from home plate, with his bare hand.

Puig said he understood the Diamondbacks' strategy.

"Looks like the manager made the right call," Puig said through an interpreter.

He was reminded that he hit a home run.

"If I hit a home run," he said, "maybe it was a bad decision."

Beckett worked the first five innings on Sunday, giving up no runs and one hit and striking out seven. He extended his string of consecutive scoreless innings to 11 and lowered his earned-run average to 2.57. he would have gone longer, but he needed intravenous fluids to combat the bug circulating in the Dodgers' clubhouse.

"This was the hardest five innings I've ever had to pitch," Beckett said.

Andre Ethier played all three weekend games, afflicted by the same illness and also in need of IV drips.

"Andre Ethier is my hero," Beckett said.


The Dodgers pretty much have three aces in Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-jin Ryu. Kershaw has not started since the March 23 opener because of what the team says is a strained upper-back muscle, but he completed a simulated game Sunday and said he assumes the next step is a minor league rehabilitation assignment.

The Dodgers offered no timetable for his return, but one club source said he believed Kershaw could rejoin them on their next trip, which extends from April 29 through May 7.

That would leave Dan Haren and Paul Maholm to compete with Beckett for the last two spots in the rotation. Maholm is the likely odd man out, assuming everyone else stays healthy, but Beckett is in his 14th major league season and coming off surgery.

A healthy and productive Beckett could make for something close to an all-star rotation.

"Josh has got a lot of innings under his belt," Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said. "If he stopped today, he's had a great career."

Mattingly did not mean that as a backhanded compliment, just a reality check.

"He can't pitch the way he did five or six years ago," Mattingly said. "His stuff is still good enough to win."

Beckett used to throw fastballs about two-thirds of the time, at an average of 95 mph, according to Now he throws them less than half the time, at an average of 92 mph.

"It's easy for me to revert to the guy I've been," Beckett said. "I've still got stuff. It's not like I'm throwing 84, 85 mph. I still have the stuff to overpower when I need to. I have to pick my spots now."

Twitter: @BillShaikin