'He's called the Wild Horse for a reason,' Roberts says of Dodgers outfielder
By Joshua Thornton
LOS ANGELES -- Yasiel Puig is just enjoying the moment.
The Dodgers' eccentric outfielder, given the nickname 'Wild Horse' by former Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully, lived up to that name Friday night in the Dodgers' 9-5 win over the D-backs in Game 1 of the National League Divison Series presented by T-Mobile.
Puig hit a liner down the left-field line in seventh, racing around the bases to try and leg out a triple. The 26-year-old did, and reaching third in Puig fashion, slid headfirst into the bag. What followed next didn't surprise his teammates.
Puig looked up toward the dugout and stuck his tongue out, wagging it in excitement.
Welcome to October baseball.
"I see my teammates so excited on the bench," Puig said, laughing. "I don't know. I don't know why I feel maybe [there was] ice cream in front of me or something like that."
Puig took just 11.20 seconds to go from home to third, which was his fastest time tracked by Statcast™ and had a 29.1 ft/sec sprint speed, well above his 28.0 average this year.
Before sprinting around the bases with his triple, Puig did something else out of the ordinary. He licked his bat after fouling off a fastball from D-backs righty Taijuan Walker in the first inning.
The result? A one-run double that gave the Dodgers a 4-0 lead.
"They throw me a lot of fastballs," Puig said. "A lot of sliders. I fight the best I can, and all the time I hit a foul ball, I thought it was my bat, and the next pitch, hit a double. That's good. I'm going to keep doing that."
These moments weren't possible last season. Puig was in the doghouse, sent down to Triple-A and only started in two postseason games. This year has been different. Puig hit a career-high 28 homers and has been one of the Dodgers' best hitters against righties this season.
And manager Dave Roberts has trusted Puig hitting at No. 5 in the lineup after he spent the beginning of the season batting eighth.
"This season I played the best I can with my teammates," Puig said. "They helped a lot, my manager, and that's the reason I played better this year and giving one more chance and opportunity to play in the playoffs."
As for his enthusiasm, that's just Puig being Puig.
"That's what Yasiel does," Roberts said. "He's called the Wild Horse for a reason. The ball was in front of him. That was his read, and he's just, he's a wild horse. So sometimes you shake your head. Sometimes you smile. But he's a heck of a talent, and he helped us win a baseball game tonight."
"Yasi's an exciting player," said Clayton Kershaw. "It's pretty special when he gets focused and locked in. And tonight meant a lot to him. He was focused and locked in, and that's the type of player he can be."
Joshua Thornton is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.