Puig hits key triple but struggles continue

Puig hits key triple but struggles continue

ST. LOUIS -- Dodgers center fielder Yasiel Puig nearly reached a new level of futility, falling just short of tying a postseason record for consecutive strikeouts during his club's 3-1 loss to the Cardinals in Game 3 of the National League Division Series on Monday night at Busch Stadium.

The Cuban-born Puig whiffed seven times in a row, a streak that began in the ninth inning of Friday night's Game 1 at Dodger Stadium and lasted through the third inning of Game 3. The record is eight in a row, jointly held by David Justice when he played for the Yankees in 2001 and Jerry Reuss when he pitched for the Dodgers in 1981.

  Date   Matchup Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 3   STL 10, LAD 9 video
Gm 2 Oct. 4   LAD 3, STL 2 video
Gm 3 Oct. 6   STL 3, LAD 1 video
Gm 4 Oct. 7   STL 3, LAD 2 video

Instead, Puig tripled to lead off the sixth inning off Cardinals right-hander John Lackey and came around to score on a two-out double by Hanley Ramirez, tying the score at 1-1. Matt Carpenter had homered earlier in the game off Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he and hitting coach Mark McGwire have trying to work with Puig, who seems to be having problems performing on the big stage. Puig also struck out in all three at-bats he took during his first All-Star Game at Minneapolis on July 15.

Puig is batting .250 (3-for-12) with one RBI, four runs scored and one extra-base hit in the first three games. Puig struck out again in his next at-bat in the eighth inning, giving him eight in the best-of-five series. Of the nine outs he has made, only one -- an infield grounder -- hasn't been a strikeout.

He was left out of the starting lineup Tuesday for Game 4, replaced in center field by Andre Ethier and in the No. 2 spot in the order by Carl Crawford.

"We continue to talk with him," Mattingly said after Game 3. "And you don't want the situation to be too big for him. Obviously, we know it's emotional. We try to sit him down, continue to talk to him about playing baseball. And even though there's a lot of people [in the crowd] waving towels and things are a little different obviously in the playoffs, I've said it all year long and many, many times -- we have to simplify.

"It's still baseball. Same game you played in Cuba, same game you played all season long. It's baseball. Even though there's a lot on the line, we have to be able to take that part out of it, cut it down to this: It's baseball."

The record for strikeouts in a Division Series is 13, held by Oakland's Brandon Moss and then-Tiger Austin Jackson. Both of them did it in last year's ALDS, which was won by Detroit in five games.

Puig dressed quickly and bolted from the clubhouse on Monday night, politely waving away a pair of reporters.

"I'll speak to you tomorrow," he said in Spanish.

Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.