Yasiel Puig’s arm outshines those of his team’s pitchers in Dodgers’ 7-5 loss to Rockies

Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner tags out Colorado Rockies' Trevor Story as he attempts to triple in the fifth inning on Friday.

Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner tags out Colorado Rockies’ Trevor Story as he attempts to triple in the fifth inning on Friday.

(Doug Pensinger / Getty Images)

The drive missed Yasiel Puig’s glove by inches, banging off Coors Field’s newly constructed fence in right field and rolling across the warning track. Puig thumped against the wall and bounded forward with 16 steps. Colorado rookie Trevor Story rounded second base as Puig bent to clasp the baseball in his right hand.

Scott Kazmir had winced upon impact, fearful of surrendering a lead for the second time Friday evening. Now he watched as Puig crow-hopped and attempted to render everything else that occurred in this 7-5 Dodgers defeat a mere footnote. A rainbow arced over second base, over any would-be cutoff men, over any doubts of Puig’s talent.

The baseball landed just in front of third baseman Justin Turner. He snapped it into his glove and applied the tag. Umpire Hunter Wendelstedt pumped his fist. The moment electrified the crowd, even those clad in purple. Turner looked stunned. Puig maintained a stony glare. The only evidence of his exertion was his heaving chest.


“As far as degree of difficulty, that might be one of the best plays I’ve ever seen,” Manager Dave Roberts said, adding, “I just can’t think of a player in baseball who can make that play.”

There is one. So much that Puig has done in this season — the newfound punctuality, the renewed tenacity of his at-bats — has earned praise. But nothing has elicited the awe of his throw in Friday’s fifth inning. The shadow of the moment almost obscured the subsequent crumbling of the evening. The play operated as a metaphor — enough caulk to fix one crack created by the Dodgers’ pitching staff, but not a salve for all its troubles.

Battling an issue with his thumb, Kazmir allowed four runs in five innings, and exited the ballpark with a brace on his left hand. With his fastball velocity plummeting, Yimi Garcia let the Rockies tie the score in the seventh and left due to soreness in his right biceps. And Chris Hatcher surrendered a two-run triple to Colorado reserve Brandon Barnes to decide the game in the eighth.

After an early barrage, the offense went quiet. Adrian Gonzalez supplied a home run in the first inning and a two-run single in the fifth. Corey Seager recovered from a frightful series in Atlanta to hit his second homer of the season. But the Dodgers struck out 14 times and “when you score three runs in the first, you hope for more than five,” Roberts said.

The issues with Hatcher, Garcia and Kazmir will linger. Hatcher had recovered from a rocky start to the season with four scoreless outings. Roberts sent him to the mound to protect a deadlock.

Hatcher walked All-Star third baseman Nolan Arenado. Mark Reynolds broke his bat on a single. Against Barnes, Hatcher tried to elevate a fastball. Instead the pitch drifted over the middle. Barnes pounded it off the wall in right.

“He got the pitch he was looking for,” Hatcher said. “He put a good swing on it. That’s baseball. You can’t win ‘em all.”

The bullpen breakdown cost the Dodgers (10-7) a chance for a third consecutive victory. It also may have damaged a talented young arm.

The first fastball Garcia threw in the seventh inning was clocked at 94 mph. His last fastball registered at 90 mph. In between, he gave up a hit, walked a batter who was attempting to bunt and put the Rockies in position to tie it on a sacrifice fly by D.J. LeMahieu.

Garcia left after that. He said he felt discomfort on his final two pitches, but Roberts and the medical staff were concerned by the decreasing velocity and nonexistent command. Garcia underwent tests Friday, with potentially more to come Saturday.

“I’m a little worried,” Garcia said. “No one wants that to happen.”

The throw by Puig allowed Kazmir to exit with a chance for a victory. But Kazmir took little solace in his performance. He downplayed the issue with his thumb.

What galled him were two home runs he allowed in the fourth inning. On both occasions — a solo homer by Arenado and a two-run blast by Ryan Raburn — he threw fastballs “exactly where those guys wanted it.” In his last three outings, Kazmir has given up 14 runs and pitched 12 innings.

That left Puig, alone, with his moment. It is uncouth to gloat after a defeat, and Puig has disarmed questions with modesty this season. But he could not avoid the obvious on this night.

“I think it was my best throw,” Puig said. “I don’t know if it’s the best play. It’s up to you guys.”

There were nods from a small group of reporters. Yes, he was told, it was.

“That came from you guys,” Puig said. “You guys are going to write it. I didn’t say that.”

Twitter: @McCulloughTimes