Yasiel Puig, who homered in his first at bat, swings and misses while striking… (Lenny Ignelzi / Associated…)
SAN DIEGO — For the first time in his young career, Yasiel Puig faced a starting pitcher for the second time.
And, by the middle of the game, Jason Marquis apparently had figured out Puig's kryptonite. Slow and slower, spinning low and away.
For the Dodgers, this would be a particularly inopportune time for the league to have solved Puig, if even for a little while. The Dodgers and their lightweight offense sank deeper into the basement of the National League West on Thursday, with a 6-3 loss to the San Diego Padres.
The Dodgers' bullpen recorded its 17th loss of the season, most of any team in the majors. The Padres broke a 2-2 tie with two runs in the seventh and two more in the eighth, with three Dodgers relievers getting six outs and giving up five hits.
Puig hit a home run, his lone hit in five at-bats. He has been with the Dodgers barely more than two weeks and he is tied for second on the team in home runs, with six. He also struck out three times in a game, for the first time.
"He's definitely an aggressive hitter," Marquis said. "You try to force his hand."
In six at-bats against Marquis, Puig has three strikeouts, two groundouts and the home run.
"The guy is a special talent," Marquis said. "He's two weeks into his big league career. We can sit here and talk about all the guys that have come through the last 30 years and been dominant for two weeks. Let's see what he does the next four years."
This was not the way to start the 24-game sprint to the All-Star break. The Dodgers play all but four of those games against NL West rivals, their best and maybe last chance to scramble back into the division race. The Dodgers don't start another block of games against the NL West until the final week of August, and by then it might be too late.
The Dodgers are 81/2 games out of first place, as far behind as they have been all season. The other four teams in the division all are within three games of one another.
The Dodgers have Puig in the lineup and Hanley Ramirez back in the lineup, and they have once again fallen to 29th in runs -- that is, they have scored fewer runs than every team except the Miami Marlins.
Puig hit the first pitch he saw from Marquis on Thursday for a home run, on an 88-mph fastball. The final six pitches thrown to Puig in his next two at-bats were sliders, all at 81 or 82 mph, all out of the strike zone. Puig took one in the dirt, swung and missed at the other five.
"It seemed to irritate Yasiel," Mattingly said.
He struck out three times, including the last out, when Padres closer Huston Street threw nothing but offspeed pitches from 80 to 84 mph. Mattingly said that although not every pitcher can execute slow stuff with the precision of Marquis, the league is getting an idea of what might work against Puig.
"I think they're starting to get a little bit of a book," Mattingly said. "It's going to be up to Yasiel to control the strike zone. If he can do it, he'll be fine. If he's going to expand it, he'll have trouble
"He's a quick learner. He'll make adjustments quick."