We saw good Puig and bad Puig last night, as the Dodgers outfielder showed off his cannon arm, then two innings later got shown up by Albert Pujols for not paying attention. Smiles all around, and a valuable lesson learned about keeping your head in the game? This was an excellent baseball sequence.
It started in the sixth, when Puig forced Erick Aybar to hustle back to first to avoid being doubled off. When Aybar looked his way, Puig gave him the Mutombo finger-wave, which is never not cool in any sport. But Albert Pujols was paying attention too.
Two innings later, with the game somewhat in hand for the Angels , Pujols caught Puig napping on a fly ball to left-center off the bat of Josh Hamilton. Pujols, about as slow as they come, tagged up from first and made it easily, to a sheepish grin from Puig.
In the hands of the wrong baseball players, tagging from first late in a five-run game would have led to recriminations and beanballs. In the hands of an overenthusiastic 23-year-old and a veteran who knows the difference between the "right way to play" and the smart way, it was a lighthearted yet teachable moment.
"Why would that bother me?" Puig said of the play. "He was doing a great job. I've done the same thing."
"He can have fun," Pujols said afterward. "I'm having fun, too." Pujols has been especially feisty this year, and I like it.
On the very next play, Erick Aybar popped out to Puig again. This time, Puig came up ready to throw—and gave Pujols a little wave, as if to say try that again.
"We talk about the fact that these guys are aggressive and they know how to play," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "And if you don't pay attention, they'll embarrass you. And Albert basically embarrassed him right there."
With the win, the Angels remained one game back of first in the AL West, while the Dodgers' loss reduced their lead in the NL West to one and a half.