When Yasiel Puig and the Los Angeles Dodgers sealed the NL West in Game 163 against the Colorado Rockies, he made a proclamation. A statement that at the time may have been meaningless but now could be the impetus that brought this team together.
“We are going to the World Series and winning the World Series.”
The Dodgers breezed by the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS. The NLCS against the Milwaukee Brewers would prove to be a greater challenge. From superb pitching performances to timely hits, both teams battled to the wire, forcing a do or die Game 7 at Miller Park.
In the heat of the battle, with the game on the line, Puig blasted a three-run home run to left center field. While his celebration could not be contained, it highlighted an epic moment in the young player’s career that he will never forget. With a win over the Brewers, the Dodgers are heading back to their second consecutive World Series.
“We know how hard it is to make the World Series; to do it two years in a row is really special,” stated 2018 NLCS MVP Cody Bellinger. “I know how lucky I am to be a part of it two years in a row.”
Yasiel Puig Overcomes Struggling Season
Puig had a below average season for his standards. His numbers declined from the season before, hitting .267/.327/.494 with 23 home runs and 63 RBI.
There were also questions about his character and his work ethic. Doubt about his physical fitness after lingering injuries. This forced Dodgers manager Dave Roberts to put Puig on the bench, bringing him into pinch hit. The manager was also quick to criticize the outfielder’s lack of keeping his emotions in check in big games, like a failed stolen base attempt in Game 2 of the NLDS.
But Puig had a chance to redeem himself and he delivered in the NLCS. In Game 5, he got a critical two-out RBI to score Manny Machado to give the Dodgers a 3-1 lead. He entered Game 5 hitting .250 with zero runs and zero RBI. Puig’s RBI was the turning point to give the Dodgers a 3-2 series lead. And in Game 7, where players can be etched into legends, Puig became a part of Dodgers lore forever with his three-run home run. A sign that despite being benched, Puig still hustled and cared about his team.
Dodgers Take Advantage of Brewers Bullpen
In the days that will follow Game 7, questions will swirl in Milwaukee. Was their bullpen really as good as advertised? Did Craig Counsell’s obscure in-game management come back to haunt him? It is strange that Counsell did take out Josh Hader, arguably one of the best relief pitchers in baseball. Xavier Cedeno and Jeremy Jeffress, the two pitchers Counsell would bring in after taking out Hader, gave up the three earned runs that destroyed any chance of Milwaukee winning the game.
The Dodgers hitters deserve the utmost respect. It wasn’t just Puig who produced in Game 7. Manny Machado, who has become the Brewers arch nemesis, produced two hits and one run. Cody Bellinger got the RBI that gave the Dodgers the lead in the second inning.
In critical elimination Game 7’s, one cannot forget about effective pitching. Rookie Walker Buehler went 4.2 innings, giving up one earned run and generating seven strikeouts. And Clayton Kershaw, on short rest, pitched a scoreless 9th inning, sealing the NL Pennant for the Dodgers.
“I’m just so proud of our guys for enduring this roller coaster of a season,” stated Roberts. “A lot of people had their hand in this. And for us to just continue to lean on each other, depend on one another and stay the course, it says a lot about the focus, the toughness of this team.”
For the first time since 1977 and ‘78, the Dodgers have won back to back pennants. Last year, Los Angeles lost a heartbreaker in seven games to the Houston Astros. Now this season, they take on the 108 win Boston Red Sox squad, who will be favored with their prolific lineup.
But do not count out these Dodgers. When you have a Puig World Series guarantee behind your team, anything is possible.
Embed from Getty Images