Yasiel Puig cupped his hand over his face. He hunched at the waist in right field as the Chicago Cubs prepared to capitalize on his blunder. A day after his seminude photo spread incited giggles in the Dodgers clubhouse, Puig looked as if he only wanted to disappear.
Puig lived a nightmare in the Dodgers’ 9-4 loss. His carelessness on the bases smothered a second-inning rally. When he dropped a flyball in the sixth, he opened the door for a six-run rally against relievers Yimi Garcia and Edward Paredes. As infielder Javier Baez launched a crushing grand slam, Puig stood with his arms crossed, unable to un-do his mistake.
“After that, that’s when they scored the runs,” Puig said. “That’s why we lost the game.”
Baez tormented the Dodgers on Tuesday. Ross Stripling departed after five innings in his shortest outing since June 5. He could not solve Baez, who walloped a score-tying home run in the fifth. It served as the only run Stripling gave up.
The offense forced Cubs ace Jon Lester from the game after five innings. He departed with the specter of a loss hanging on his shoulders, having given up two runs and exiting with the Dodgers ahead. After Puig flubbed the reception of a ball hit by outfielder Ian Happ, the Chicago offense stormed ahead to hand the Dodgers their first loss since Wednesday.
“We just didn’t get it done,” manager Dave Roberts said.
The team started the day in good spirits. An aspiring interior decorator pinned two photos of Puig from ESPN the Magazine to a wall in the dugout. Puig pointed out the artwork to Rich Hill as Hill took a break from batting practice. Matt Kemp caught sight of the display as he walked toward the bat rack.
“Y’all see the new wallpaper?” Kemp said.
Amid his season of success, Stripling had struck out 10.6 batters per nine innings, a rate that let him to defuse most crises. He missed bats to escape the first; first baseman Anthony Rizzo swung over a curveball and catcher Willson Contreras missed another for the third out.
The Dodgers dinged Lester for a run in the second inning, but missed a chance for a bigger rally. After a leadoff walk by Max Muncy, Cody Bellinger hit a run-scoring single into center field. Bellinger took second base when Happ chucked the ball to the plate and then went to third when the throw bounced past Contreras.
With Bellinger at third, Puig took three consecutive balls from Lester. Puig decided to swing at the fourth pitch, a belt-high 92-mph fastball. He could not do much with it. Puig chopped a grounder to Baez, who threw home to catch Bellinger in a rundown. Contreras and Baez forced Bellinger into an out. It would soon get worse for the Dodgers.
When Baez tagged Bellinger, he noticed Puig loitering behind the bag at first base. Baez fired across the diamond. Rizzo slapped his glove on Puig’s foot. The inning was over.
“I didn’t notice that Bellinger was in a rundown,” Puig said. “When I decided to go to second, that’s when they got me out.”
The Cubs made Stripling work to protect the lead. He pitched around two singles in the third. An inning later, outfielder Kyle Schwarber reached on a bunt, but catcher Austin Barnes cut him down trying to steal second base. After Stripling walked Happ — the first walk by Stripling in five June starts — shortstop Addison Russell laced a two-out single up the middle. Stripling ended the inning by inducing a grounder from Lester.
Stripling buckled in the fifth. A familiar irritant undid him. Baez had singled in the third, giving him hits against Stripling in four consecutive at-bats. A fifth hit did more damage. Baez powered a full-count fastball over the fence in right to tie the score.
“I threw the kitchen sink at him,” Stripling said. “And he hit it all. We’ll hopefully play them in October, and I’ll get him out then.”
The offense picked Stripling up in the bottom of the inning. Bellinger collected his second hit. He was the team’s first man on base since the second inning. Up came Barnes. Lester tried a 1-and-1 cutter. Barnes pulled the pitch into left field for a go-ahead single.
Roberts chose to hit for Stripling with a runner aboard, which meant the bullpen would handle the final four innings. Garcia gave up a leadoff single to Contreras. Soon after, Happ stung a ball to the warning track. Puig tracked it down and raised his glove. The ball ticked off the lip of the leather and hit the ground.
“I thought the ball was farther away,” Puig said. “And when I was trying to run it down, I lost it in the lights. And that’s why we lost the game.”
The error put Garcia in a bind. He could not escape. Russell tied the score with a single. Roberts tried Paredes, a left-hander, to turn around Zobrist, a switch-hitter. Zobrist still delivered a run-scoring single.
Baez returned to the plate two batters later. Roberts likes to avoid letting Paredes face right-handed batters, but he acquiesced here. Baez destroyed an 89-mph fastball to put the game out of reach.
“He’s swinging the bat against anybody, regardless,” Roberts said. “And it was a middle-middle fastball.”