Yasiel Puig does everything with a touch of panache, including his game-ending home run trot.
The Los Angeles Dodgers’ excitable rookie homered with two outs in the 11th inning for a 1-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Sunday. Puig circled the bases and slid into home plate, where teammates were waiting for him after his first career walk-off homer.
"Each player does what he can when he gets to the plate. Some people jump, some people slide, some people run," Puig said through a translator. "I have a previous teammate in Cuba that jumped and hurt his ankle. So I decided to slide."
Puig drove an 0-1 pitch deep into the left-field pavilion against rookie Curtis Partch (0-1) for his 10th homer and 23rd RBI in 48 big league games. It salvaged an otherwise frustrating afternoon for the Dodgers, who were held to one hit by Tony Cingrani through the first seven innings.
"It wasn’t a terrible pitch," Reds catcher Devin Mesoraco said. "I think, more than anything, it just had a little bit of elevation. In that situation, guys are trying to hit home runs, and Puig was able to get it in the air. As much as he’s chased pitches against us this series, I wanted it to be a ball."
Brandon League (6-3) pitched two hitless innings for the win.
The NL West leaders, who took three of four from the Reds, won for the 26th time in 32 games and extended their lead to 2 games over Arizona. They were a season-worst 12 games under .500 and 9 games out of first place on June 21.
"I don’t know anything about destiny, but we’re just finding a way to win," League said. "We have the feeling even before the game starts that we’re going to win, and whoever’s sitting in the other dugout is going to lose. We’ve got a good thing going and we’re just going to keep it rolling. Puig’s contributed a lot, but it’s not only him. The best part of this is that it’s a different guy every day, and we’re not counting on one person."
Cincinnati pitchers set a franchise record with 20 strikeouts. Puig, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez and Tim Federowicz each fanned three times as the Dodgers established a team high since 1900.
"You put your at-bats behind you, every single time. What’s in the past is in the past and you give it your best each time you come up," Puig said. "Even though three of those strikeouts were mine, I just kept giving it my most. They had been throwing me a lot of high pitches, but I just kept with it."
Cingrani, facing a lineup missing leadoff hitter Carl Crawford for the second straight day because of a high temperature, tied a career high with 11 strikeouts in his 12th big league start before he was lifted for a pinch-hitter.
The only hit against Cingrani was a two-out single through the box in the third inning by Dodgers pitcher Chris Capuano — his first hit of the season. Mark Ellis followed with a towering drive toward the left-field corner that Chris Heisey caught in front of the short fence.
Los Angeles didn’t get another baserunner against the 24-year-old left-hander until Puig walked on a full count leading off the seventh. But the rookie was picked off first base with Gonzalez — the team’s RBI leader — at the plate.
Capuano held the Reds to three hits over 6 2-3 innings. The left-hander retired 15 of his first 16 batters, less than 24 hours after teammate Hyun-Jin Ryu pitched two-hit ball over seven innings and retired his final 13 in a 4-1 victory.
"Cappy pounded the zone, and his fastball was competitive to both sides of the plate today," pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said. "When he’s using his fastball more and more, he’s trusting a few of his other off-speed pitches to put in the mix and he doesn’t have to depend so much on the changeup. He just needs to use all of his repertoire and trust it. And when he does that, it’s fun to watch."
Joey Votto’s two-out single in the first was Cincinnati’s only hit until Mesoraco snapped a string of 13 straight Cincinnati outs with a leadoff double in the sixth. Mesoraco advanced to third on Cingrani’s sacrifice bunt, and Reds manager Dusty Baker put on a suicide squeeze with Derrick Robinson at the plate.
Mesoraco had to return to third after the rookie fouled off an 0-1 pitch, and was retired in a rundown after Robinson grounded to third baseman Juan Uribe with the infield playing in.
The Reds wasted another leadoff double in the seventh by Votto.
NOTES: After beating RHP Zack Greinke in the series opener, the Reds lost three straight games started by Dodgers left-handers. Cincinnati is 19-19 in games started by opposing lefties. … Reds RHP Greg Reynolds, out of minor league options, was designated for assignment to make room for Cingrani, who was optioned to the minors during the All-Star break. … Ellis led off the first inning with an 11-pitch at-bat, popping up to third base after fouling off six consecutive pitches. … Phillips, the Reds’ cleanup hitter, was 1 for 13 with no RBIs during the four-game series. He has driven in two runs in his last seven games. … Ramirez singled in the 10th to reach base safely for the 36th consecutive game.