Yasiel Puig topped himself yet again, electrifying the Dodger Stadium crowd with another big moment in a week already full of them for the rookie newly arrived to the major leagues.
Puig hit his first career grand slam, Zack Greinke pitched four-hit ball over seven innings, and Los Angeles defeated Atlanta 5-0 on Thursday night, snapping the Braves’ five-game winning streak.
”He’s really going out there and playing like he belongs up here,” veteran Braves pitcher Tim Hudson said of Puig, who made his debut on Monday.
Clinging to a 1-0 lead, the Dodgers loaded the bases in the eighth after Cory Gearrin gave up one-out singles to Skip Schumaker and Luis Cruz, and then walked pinch-hitter Hanley Ramirez.
That set the stage for Puig, who had fans on their feet and clapping in expectation of more exploits from the 22-year-old Cuban defector. He was 5 for 8 with two homers and five RBIs in his first two games this week before going 0 for 4 on Wednesday.
Watching from the dugout, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly and first baseman Adrian Gonzalez were chatting about what Puig might do.
”We said, `It should be grand slam here’ and it’s on the first pitch,” Mattingly recounted. ”You’re trying to get one there and he gets you four.”
Puig homered on the first pitch into the right field pavilion, extending the Dodgers’ lead to 5-0. He took his fourth curtain call of the week from the top of the dugout steps, raising both arms to acknowledge the cheers.
”What information we had on him going in and knowing what I wanted him to do in that situation, that obviously wasn’t it,” Gearrin said. ”It was a slider and I didn’t get it down enough. I left it up and out over the plate, and he did what he was supposed to do.”
Typical of his hard-charging style, Puig was going so fast he nearly came up on Ramirez’s heels as they crossed home plate in succession. One of his teammates poured water on Puig’s head in celebration.
He really got soaked after the game, when Cruz dumped a container of water over his head during an on-field interview.
”It’s just infectious the way he plays,” Mattingly said. ”Seems like there’s a joy in his game. It’s the way you’re supposed to play. He just looks so fresh. That’s what gives our guys so much energy.”
Puig had singled, struck out and grounded out to shortstop in his three previous at-bats.
”With the fans here and us winning, the pressure comes off,” Puig said through a translator.
He said he doesn’t feel any extra pressure compared to what he felt in the minors or playing back home in Cuba.
”It’s the same for me,” he said shrugging. ”I prepare myself to do what I’m doing and the team is winning.”
Playing right field, Puig showed off his cannon of an arm, cutting off balls that might have gone for extra bases and firing throws to keep runners from advancing.
”He’s a good player on both sides of the ball,” Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said. ”He made a couple of nice plays defensively, and it looks like he’s got a pretty good arm.”
Greinke (3-1) put his recent struggles behind him, striking out a season-high seven and walking three to earn his first victory since May 15 against Washington.
The right-hander had given up four runs and nine hits while walking three in 5 1-3 innings of a 7-6 loss in 10 innings at Colorado last weekend, one of four recent rough outings for Greinke.
”I’d been struggling, but I felt like I’d been pretty close,” he said. ”Right now is not my sharpest, but just working on it trying to get better.”
Hudson (4-5) dueled Greinke through seven innings, allowing one run and four hits. He struck out five and walked none in his first start against the Dodgers since 2011.
The NL East-leading Braves lost for the first time in June. They had won seven of nine and 15 of 19 coming into the opener of their seven-game West Coast trip.
Pena, hitting .321 coming in, was 1 for 4 with a strikeout. Freddie Freeman, who came in hitting .306, was 1 for 4 with two strikeouts for the Braves. Andrelton Simmons was hitless in four at-bats, ending his 11-game hitting streak.
NOTES: The Dodgers notched their seventh shutout victory of the season. … The Dodgers’ last six homers have been hit by rookies Puig (3), Van Slyke (2), and Tim Federowicz (1). … The Dodgers selected RHP Chris Anderson of Jacksonville (Fla.) University with their first-round pick (18th overall) in the first-year player draft. The 20-year-old junior was 7-5 with a 2.49 ERA and three complete games in 14 starts this season. The team took LHP Tom Windle of Minnesota with the 56th overall selection in the second round. He was 6-4 with a 2.14 ERA in 14 starts as a junior. … Dodgers 2B Mark Ellis turned 36 on Thursday.