Pitching, Puig key in Dodgers' sweep of Padres
LOS ANGELES — It was Cuban Heritage Day at Dodger Stadium Sunday, so Los Angeles' favorite Cuban launched a missile deep into the seats of the left-center bleachers.
In the sixth inning with the Dodgers and Padres tied at one, Puig teed off on Dale Thayer, crushing what proved to be the go-ahead solo home run over the wall. The blast helped the Dodgers secure a 2-1 win and a sweep of the Padres.
The Dodgers have now gone 51-13 since June 22, and while everyone is looking to pinpoint an exact formula for the winning streak, manager Don Mattingly says there isn't one, but that pitching performances like the one the Dodgers received from Zack Greinke have been integral.
"Obviously, our pitching is really what this thing has been built on," Mattingly said. "You can see what (team president) Stan Kasten talked about coming in. The pitching is really what does it. It's not quite as glamorous as the home runs and all the other stuff, but those guys give you a chance to win, day-in and day-out.
Greinke (14-3) went seven innings, giving up only one earned run while striking out seven. He walked two early but it was not of concern as he pitched effectively with the game tied, giving the Dodgers a chance to take a lead.
"He was battling a little bit, he wasn't quite as sharp," Mattingly said. "He got better as the game went on. I thought he did a good job and got us where we needed to go and then we turned it over to the bullpen and I thought those guys got it done."
With the game tied in the fourth, Greinke hit a two-out single. Hoping to be the catalyst for the offense, he then stole second with a head-first slide, his second stolen base of the season.
Greinke is the only pitcher on the team with a stolen base. The slide caught the eye of some but Mattingly didn't think much of it.
"As long as he doesn't get hurt it's fine with me," Mattingly said. "This guy is a baseball player. I think we let him be a baseball player. I'm not giving him a steal there. I think he knows that guy isn't giving it to him."
"It was a last-minute decision," Greinke said. "I thought it was safer than going feet-first. Maybe I was wrong. It felt more comfortable going head-first than feet-first."
What Mattingly was thinking about was the fact that once again, he was able to save bullpen arms.
Mattingly was jokingly asked if he even remembered his middle relievers. The typically stone-faced manager shrugged his shoulders, smiled and said maybe.
"We added some too and now I've got to figure it out again,"
Ronald Belisario came in for only a third of an inning and Paco Rodriguez got two key outs with a runner in scoring position in the eight.
Kenley Jansen retired the side in the ninth for his 24th save of the season.
The performances of Puig and Rodriguez were only fitting, coming on the day the club celebrated their Cuban heritage. Prior to the game, the two mingled with Andy Garcia, with Puig even catching him when he threw out the first pitch.
"It was great to hit a home run on Cuban Heritage Day in front of all of the fans," Puig said through an interpreter. "It also felt great that Paco was able to have such a big inning as well."