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Yasiel Puig helps wag the Dodgers to a Game 1 victory over Arizona

Yasiel Puig shot, in his mind, a routine grounder into left field to begin Friday’s seventh inning of the National League division series opener at Dodger Stadium.

He thought he could earn a double, until he noticed that Arizona left fielder David Peralta had him shaded toward center. Puig rounded first base with purpose and second with a vengeance. As he neared third, he imagined ice cream awaited him upon arrival, and his tongue started to sneak out of his mouth.

He slid in safely, and his tongue fully escaped. As Puig propped himself on third base with his left hand, he frantically wagged his tongue and flopped his head around, in a moment made for our time. Within minutes, the video clip threaded across the internet and onto sports highlight shows.

“I don’t know what that was,” Cody Bellinger said. “I haven’t seen the video yet.”

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Puig’s teammates attributed it to a typical Puig gesture, particularly in a high-profile moment he so adores.

“It’s pretty special when he gets focused and locked in,” said Clayton Kershaw, the game’s winning pitcher. “Tonight meant a lot to him. He was focused and locked in, and that’s the type of player he can be.”

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he was wholly unsurprised to witness Puig’s tongue-wagging moment, noting that his right fielder is nicknamed “Wild Horse.”

The two men have battled often this season, as recently as last week, when Puig showed up late for a pregame activity and Roberts benched him. They then reached a tentative understanding, which has so far extended into the postseason.

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“Sometimes, you shake your head,” Roberts said. “Sometimes, you smile. But he’s a heck of a talent, and he helped us to win a baseball game tonight.”

In Friday’s first inning, Puig fouled off three two-strike pitches until he found a suitable fastball. He knocked it for an RBI double to center, and at second base he gesticulated wildly.

“That’s the way he plays,” Chris Taylor said. “I think that’s why the fans love him.”

After the last ball he fouled off, Puig licked his bat, as he has made his habit this season. He claims it’s to assess the bat’s viability. This time, he encountered unwanted pine tar and made a face to match it. But the double followed, and so he said he won’t stop licking his bat.

“I thought there was a bat in front of him,” Justin Turner joked about Puig’s later body language.

As Puig modeled his reaction before a roomful of reporters and cameras late Friday night, Turner shielded his face with his palm, barely able to suppress overt laughter.

“JT likes it,” Puig said. “That’s the reason he’s laughing right now.”

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Puig, conducting a rare news conference in English, twice asked Turner to imitate him. Turner declined. Puig asked Turner to look at him. Turner obliged, and Puig did it again — tongue several inches outside his mouth, head shaking uncontrollably, fully committed to the bit.

“That,” Turner said, “is exactly how he did it.”

pedro.moura@latimes.com

Follow Pedro Moura on Twitter @pedromoura


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