Even if he didn’t actually hit a home run.
Keyed by Puig’s fourth-inning RBI triple and Adrian Gonzalez’s RBI double, the Dodgers got their swagger back last night, defeating the St. Louis Cardinals 3-0 in Game 3 of the NLCS to pull the best-of-seven series back to 2-1.
Puig, a 22-year-old rookie out of Cuba, has been criticized all season for what some MLB players perceive as showboating after big plays. Monday night’s game surely rankled those critics, as Puig, breaking out of an 0-11 hitting slump during the series, flipped his bat and raised his arms in celebration of what he thought was a home run. But the ball fell a few feet short, caroming off the outfield wall and forcing Puig to turn to his explosive speed for what would instead be a stand-up triple.
Cardinals players were the latest to call out Puig for his violation of “The Code.”
"As a player, I just think he doesn't know [about how to act]," Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran said. "That's what I think. He really doesn't know. He must think that he's still playing somewhere else.”
As he has all season, Puig explained his enthusiasm by saying, through an interpreter, that he’s just “having fun on the field” and that in the Cuban league where he came up, celebrations like his are more commonplace.
"In Cuba, you always see a lot of emotion on the field," Puig said. "Everyone is really giving it their best. It's their job to go out there and do the best they can, just like it's here in the big leagues. The people in Cuba are born to play baseball, and that's what you see on the field mostly."
Puig’s premature preen wasn’t the only celebration the Cardinals took issue with. Dodgers infielder Adrian Gonzalez got L.A. on the board with an RBI double two batters before Puig and upon reaching base, he too expressed an exuberance that affronted some Cardinals.
When asked about his thoughts on Puig’s celebration, Cardinals starter Adam Wainwright said, "I didn't see it. I saw Adrian doing some Mickey Mouse stuff on third base, but I didn't see what Yasiel did. Those guys are fired up. This is playoff baseball, they want it over there."
Gonzalez’s response to Wainwright’s comments was priceless.
"We are in L.A., so Mickey Mouse stuff does go,” Gonzalez said. “Mickey Mouse is only an hour away. So, you know, it fits us. I did what I always do."
Discussions about tact and etiquette obscured yet another brilliant pitching performance in the 2013 MLB Postseason. Puig’s fellow rookie Hyun-Jin Ryu pitched seven innings and gave up just three hits, with no St. Louis base runners advancing past second.
"All I was thinking about was the fact that we were down 2-0, and I told myself this could potentially be the last start I pitch here this year," the 26-year-old South Korean said through an interpreter. "So I focused from the very first pitch, I just zoned in and I was able to get a good result."
Wainwright was outstanding as well, striking out five batters and allowing just six hits in seven innings. But his fateful two-run fourth inning was all the Dodgers needed to secure victory in virtual must-win Game 3.
"You come home, if you get the game, you get momentum on your side,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said after the game. “Obviously, up 2-1 they still have the upper hand, but you feel like you're back in the series. It gives your guys a little confidence. Every day is momentum in the postseason, and right now, I feel like we grabbed it."
Los Angeles is hoping the big mo' rolls over to Game 4, tonight at 8:00 p.m. EST on TBS.