MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — From the moment Yasiel Puig broke into the big leagues, it’s been go, go, go for the 23-year-old Cuban outfielder.
Now that Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is seeing his electrifying, and sometimes maddening, player start to slow things down on the diamond, there’s no telling how far his talents can take him.
Puig tied a career high with four hits and drove in two runs and Dan Haren struck out seven in 6 2-3 innings to help the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 9-4 victory over the Minnesota Twins in Game 1 of a day-night doubleheader on Thursday.
“His whole game seems to be calming down, base-running, defense,” Mattingly said. “At the plate we’re seeing him be more patient. The sky is the limit for Yasiel Puig.
“If he continues down this path, then he changes everything with how you pitch him, what you can do to him, because he’s going to force you to throw the ball over the plate.”
Haren (4-0) gave up four runs — three earned — and six hits with three walks and Juan Uribe also tied a career-high with four hits and two RBIs for the Dodgers. Chris Perez pitched 1 2-3 innings for his first save.
Mike Pelfrey (0-3) gave up five runs and seven hits and walked three in four innings for the Twins. Brian Dozier had two hits and two RBIs for Minnesota.
The Dodgers looked uncomfortable in the 40-degree weather in the first inning, when throwing errors by Carl Crawford in left field and catcher Miguel Olivo on the same play allowed Trevor Plouffe to score from first base on a bloop single by Jason Kubel to give the Twins a 2-0 lead.
But Pelfrey, who has not won a game at Target Field since April 16, 2013, gave the lead right back when his walk to Olivo loaded the bases with no outs in the second inning. Puig’s two-run double made it 3-2 and the Dodgers scored two more on a double from Matt Kemp and a single from Uribe in the third to take control.
“We’ve got to do something about it, we have to fix it,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said of Pelfrey. “We’re trying to get him on the right path.”
Puig also had singles in the first, fourth and sixth innings and walked in the eighth, the third time he’s had four hits in a game. He is batting .400 (16 for 40) with three doubles and 12 RBIs in his past 10 games to raise his average to .308 for the season and said he’s worked with hitting coach Mark McGwire on his approach at the plate.
“He’s helped me not get too anxious at the plate,” Puig said through an interpreter. “And it’s helped me just connect with pitches that would normally give me trouble.”
The Twins seemed poised for a big inning in the fifth when Dozier’s single drove in two runs and a walk to Joe Mauer gave them runners on first and second with nobody out.
Mattingly then challenged a close play at second base, when Hanley Ramirez stabbed a line drive from Plouffe and, in one motion, flipped the ball from his glove to second baseman Dee Gordon to try and double up Dozier.
Umpires ruled Dozier safe on the play, but after a two-minute replay, officials overturned the call and ruled Dozier out.
Jason Kubel grounded out in the next at-bat to end the inning and Haren escaped with a 5-4 lead.
“That fifth inning was close to falling apart,” Haren said. “I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t catch a break there, Hanley making a good play and getting the double play. … Besides that I felt really good. I had a good rhythm the whole game.”
Gardenhire had a challenge of his own in the eighth inning when Kubel was called out on a play at second base. Gordon dropped the throw from Ramirez on the play, and replay officials quickly overturned the play to call Kubel safe.
NOTES: Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, on the disabled list since after his first start of the season with strained shoulder, threw 86 pitches and allowed two runs in five innings in a start for Double-A Chattanooga on Wednesday night and appears in line to rejoin the rotation early next week. … Red Patterson will make his MLB debut in the nightcap for the Dodgers against Twins LHP Kris Johnson. Both were called up to start the game under a provision that allows rosters to expand to 26 for a doubleheader.
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