Puig homers, throws out runner at plate as Dodgers beat Australia
SYDNEY — Yasiel Puig broke out of a spring-long batting slump to hit a two-run home run in the top of the eighth inning Thursday and lead the Los Angeles Dodgers a 4-2 win over Team Australia in an exhibition game at the revamped Sydney Cricket Ground.
With the score tied 2-2 after Puig’s homer, the Dodgers took the lead on an error and passed ball, then added a fourth on Juan Uribe’s single.
Puig was batting only .122 with five hits in 41 at-bats coming into the game.
He also helped defensively, throwing out a runner in the sixth inning from right field, easily getting Australia first baseman Mike Walker at the plate.
The Dodgers are preparing for Major League Baseball season openers against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday and Sunday. Team Australia plays the Diamondbacks in an exhibition game Friday.
Seth Rosin came in to pitch for the Dodgers in the ninth and made things interesting when he allowed Australia to put men at first and second with one out. But Rosin struck out catcher Ryan Battaglia and second baseman Logan Wade to end the game and get the save.
Before the four-run eighth, the Dodgers’ only threat came in the first inning when Puig walked with one out and Adrian Gonzalez moved him to third with a single — the only Los Angeles hit through the first seven innings. But Australia starter Ryan Searle got Andre Ethier swinging.
Team Australia, which outhit the Dodgers 7-3, took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the third on third baseman Stefan Welch’s sacrifice fly RBI and scored its second in the sixth on an infield single by Mike Walker, scoring Brad Harman from third. The inning ended when Walker was thrown out by Puig.
Team Australia had six players on its roster affiliated with major league clubs — Battaglia (Cleveland), Ryan Rowland-Smith (Diamondbacks), Searle (Chicago Cubs), Wade (Minnesota), Walker (Milwaukee) and Welch (Boston).
TRAINERS ROOM: Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez came out of the game in the fourth inning after tweaking his back, but the injury does not appear to be serious. "He felt it a little bit in BP (batting practice)," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He knew enough to take himself out of there. We are always concerned a little bit when a guy comes out, but he’s pretty good about his body, pretty good about taking care of himself."
STARTING TIME: Dodgers starter Zach Lee struck out six in four innings, allowed one run on three hits, but didn’t get much help from his teammates early. "It is what it is," Lee said. "They came around at the end. It was only a matter of time." Coming into the game, Lee was 1-0 in one start with a 5.79 ERA in two previous games. One of the top Dodgers prospects, the 22-year-old Lee won the team’s minor league pitcher of the year award in 2013.
AUSTRALIAN PITCHING: Team Australia starter Ryan Searle was also impressive, giving up just one hit in three innings with five strikeouts and one hit batsman. Matt Williams, who gave up the homer to Puig, took the loss.
DOUBLE DUTY: Sydney-born Ryan Rowland-Smith of the Diamondbacks, trying to get a reliever’s spot in the Arizona bullpen, came in to pitch for Australia in the top of fourth and retired the side in order. He will pitch for the Diamondbacks on Friday night against Australia.
TRIAL RUN: It was the first full game at the revamped Sydney Cricket Ground, where capacity crowds of 40,000 are expected over the weekend for the regular-season games. There were just 14,385 fans in the stands Thursday, and players reported few problems with the field, lighting or pitcher’s mound. There were a few issues with the scoreboard, including it showing three outs for much of one inning.