LOS ANGELES – Maybe what Yasiel Puig needs right now is a day off.
He could probably use it. His aching left hip – the one he injured running into a wall July 3 at Colorado – is still not fully recovered. A little rest probably wouldn’t hurt.
But the Dodgers are in a race, and Puig is important enough to their chances that if he can play, he will.
“If he’s healthy, he’ll play,” manager Don Mattingly said. “If he can’t play, he can’t play.”
The Dodgers are hoping he can. After losing to the Colorado Rockies 3-0 Friday night at Dodger Stadium, they fell to 2½ games behind the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League West. There is still plenty of time to make up ground, but given the struggle they’ve had simply reaching .500, every game becomes critical, even in July.
And although Puig acknowledges that a day off might be advisable, he’s not willing to sit. At least not now.
“It could be, but I really want to get on the field and play because we’re in the thick of things and close to first place,” he said through a translator.
Puig’s hip has bothered him since the game in Colorado nine days ago. He took batting practice Friday afternoon and started in right field, but he clearly wasn’t right. On a first-inning ground out, he ran to first base at less than full speed.
“He thought he could go,” Mattingly said. “Obviously, it wasn’t good enough for the game.”
Mattingly indicated that there needs to be better communication between Puig and the team’s medical staff. Had he known Puig wasn’t ready to play at full speed, he said, he would have preferred to keep him on the bench and save him for a pinch-hitting opportunity.
“I’d rather have him off the bench for an at-bat than have him for two innings, because I end up short,” he said. “That’s one thing we’ve got to do, is make sure is our communication is better.
“If you can go, you can go. If you can’t, you can’t. Guys get banged up; you give them a day. That’s all there is to it.”
Puig said he would receive treatment Saturday before deciding if he can play in the third game of the series against the Rockies. But he’s not likely to want to sit, even though he is 10 for 39 with 13 strikeouts and just one extra-base hit since being injured.
Nor is he inclined to alter his all-out style, even if it means crashing into a fence to chase down a fly ball.
“That’s how I play, and that’s how I will continue to play,” he said.
The loss ended a five-game winning streak for the Dodgers, who struggled to mount an offense against Rockies starter Juan Nicasio. They were held to four hits and were shut out for the first time since June 14.
Starter Clayton Kershaw rallied from a slow start and pitched seven innings, but his offense never quite threatened Nicasio. They got runners as far as second base in four different innings but failed to score.
If there was a silver lining to the game, perhaps that was it.
“It’s something that was missing early in the year where you get behind by a couple and it felt like the game was over,” Mattingly said. “It didn’t feel like that all night. We’ll take that as a positive.”