Yasiel Puig delivers in his return from injury as Dodgers defeat Braves, 5-1
On his first night back from the disabled list, Yasiel Puig received an offer from Alex Wood. If Puig could supply a home run on Saturday night, as Wood toiled on the mound against the Atlanta Braves, Wood would greet him with a bear hug. Puig met his end of the bargain, blasting a two-run home run in the sixth inning of a 5-1 victory by the Dodgers. As he traded high-fives with his teammates, Puig was ambushed by Wood inside the clubhouse.
“I like it,” Puig said. “It’s OK.”
After sitting out three weeks because of a strained oblique, Puig powered the Dodgers with three runs batted in and handed a lead to Wood, who gave up one hit in 5⅔ scoreless innings. The team scored twice in the ninth inning to win its third game in a row.
The return of Puig thickened the plot of this three-city trip, which ends Sunday at SunTrust Park. The team has played well in his absence. Yet, he offered a reminder of his ability at the plate, and cleansed any residual discontent about his performance before landing on the disabled list this month.
Before he got injured July 8 against the Angels, Puig annoyed some Dodgers officials with his performance during that series, in which he made a handful of mistakes in the outfield. Manager Dave Roberts indicated before the game Saturday that he planned to speak with Puig about the need for attention to detail.
“That’s my job, our job as coaches, to continue to remind players how important it is to hit the cutoff man, throw to the right base, not give up outs on the bases,” Roberts said. “He’ll be reminded of that.”
Roberts sounded more sanguine afterward. He praised Puig for his tenacity when facing reliever Luke Jackson and hitting the home run, and for showing patience with a walk in the ninth inning to spark the flurry.
“That was a big hit,” Roberts said. “It was good for him, to get back in the swing of things, and get a big lift for us.”
Wood (7-5) kept the lead safe. He did issue four walks, which led to his departure. Caleb Ferguson turned in two innings of relief, giving up a home run to his first batter before buckling down. The offense in the ninth allowed Roberts to give Kenley Jansen a day off, handing the four-run lead to Erik Goeddel instead.
Wood has struggled when facing his former team since departing in the summer of 2015. The Braves taxed him for four runs and prevented him from finishing the fifth inning June 9.
The Dodgers staked Wood a one-run lead in the second inning. Enrique Hernandez led off with a single, took second when left-hander Max Fried hit Cody Bellinger on the hands with a pitch, moved to third on a flyout by Logan Forsythe and scored on a sacrifice fly from Puig.
Wood threw without pinpoint command. He issued a leadoff walk in the second inning. He hit outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr. with a curveball in the third inning. He handed out another walk in the fourth inning. Atlanta could not punish Wood for the inaccuracy. He bulled his way out of danger by inducing groundouts, including double plays in the third and fourth innings.
“It was good tonight,” Wood said. “I thought we had a really good game plan, and I had all three [pitches] working for the most part. I felt pretty good.”
Puig added to the advantage in the sixth. Fried (1-4) exited after five innings. In his place arrived the right-handed Jackson. After a walk by Bellinger, Puig settled into a duel with Jackson.
Jackson either trusted his slider in the strike zone or had no ability to control the pitch. Puig fouled off one belt-high and then another at his thighs. Jackson tried a 2-and-2 slider over the middle and Puig hooked a two-run shot into left field. The ball crashed off a scoreboard and landed in the Dodgers bullpen.
“I tried to hit every pitch he threw to me,” Puig said. “I was a little late, and finally he threw me a slider. I got it in front, and I hit that ball well.”
Wood could not finish the sixth inning. He collected two groundouts and appeared set to depart after a third grounder rolled toward the right side of the infield. Sprinting toward it from his position in the shift was shortstop Chris Taylor. He bobbled the ball for an error.
After Wood walked outfielder Nick Markakis, Roberts sent in J.T. Chargois in relief. Wood screamed into his glove as he departed. His anger would not last long. Chargois spun a slider past the stationary Tyler Flowers for the third out.
Wood retired to the clubhouse as his teammates finished the game. Puig opened the door in the ninth inning. Taylor and Manny Machado each contributed run-scoring singles. When Puig ventured back into the clubhouse, Wood was there to jump him.
“It’s great to see him back in there,” Wood said. “And doing damage.”
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