Mattinly Benches Puig With Eye On ‘Best Chance To Win’
Hyun-Jin Ryu gave the Los Angeles Dodgers six strong innings in Game 3 Monday night and exited the game with the Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals locked in a tie. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly’s decision to call on his bullpen was once again a failed experiment as Scott Elbert surrendered the lead only two batters in to the seventh inning.
With the Dodgers now one loss away from being eliminated, Mattingly’s Game 4 lineup doesn’t include Yasiel Puig as he’s replaced in center field by Andre Ethier. Naturally, the change led to plenty of questions for Mattingly in his pregame press conference, who said the decision is to give the Dodgers their best opportunity to win, via Pedro Moura of the OC Register:
Mattingly on benching Puig for Ethier: “He’s healthy. It’s pretty simple. We just felt like this gives us the best chance to win today.”
— Pedro Moura (@pedromoura) October 7, 2014
Puig’s streak of consecutive strikeouts in the NLDS ran to seven, which was one short of tying a record for a single postseason series. He ended it emphatically with a triple to the right field corner in the sixth inning and scored the tying run.
Through three games, Puig is batting .250 (3-for-12) with four runs scored and one RBI. Andre Ethier entered Game 1 in the seventh as part of a double switch and he went 1-for-2 with a double in the ninth inning.
Puig’s struggles led to Mattingly discussing the postseason with his young center fielder and attempts at simplifying the game for him. While there’s precedent for Mattingly benching Puig, as he did earlier in the season, doing so in an elimination game is a different kind of gamble.
For comparisons sake, Ethier is a career 2-for-6 with one home run and three RBIs whereas Puig is 1-for-2 with a double, one walk and one strikeout.
Puig also hustles harder in the outfield than a lot of players that I’ve seen. The catches he makes and what he does to make those… as Vin Scully calls him, “the wild horse.” We’ll see how it turns out. I’m more worried about Kershaw’s nerves getting shook than I am about Puig striking out or Ethier replacing him.