Rookie outfielder Yasiel Puig is hitting .427 with seven home runs and 16… (Alex Gallardo / Associated…)
While the rest of the country debates whether Yasiel Puig should be invited to the All-Star game, the fans at Dodger Stadium have already bestowed him with an even more prestigious title.
"M-V-Puig!" the announced crowd of 51,037 fans chanted over and over Thursday for a rookie outfielder playing in his 23rd game.
Moments earlier, Puig had reached across home plate and pulled a slider by Justin De Fratus into left field, driving in two runs to reverse a one-run deficit, sending the Dodgers to their sixth consecutive victory, a 6-4 decision over the Philadelphia Phillies.
BOX SCORE: Dodgers 6, Philadelphia 4
"You expect it, kind of," starting pitcher Zack Greinke said.
Puig hit the pitch he had missed twice before in that seventh-inning at-bat: a slider low and away.
"It was probably a ball," Manager Don Mattingly said. "Yasiel did a nice job of staying on it and rolling it through that hole."
That he was even in that position to be the hero was something of a minor miracle, considering what happened in the top of the inning. While pursuing a solo home run by Chase Utley that gave the Phillies a 4-3 edge, Puig crashed full speed into the video scoreboard in the right-field wall.
Another highly touted young outfielder, Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals, had a similar run-in with that scoreboard May 13. Harper didn't play the next day. He returned to the field, only to further injure his knee. He last played in a major league game on May 26.
Puig remained on the field for the final out of the top of the seventh. Before the Dodgers batted, he disappeared into the clubhouse with a trainer but quickly re-emerged.
"My shoulder is good," Puig said. "Good enough."
Mattingly joked, "They checked the wall — it's fine."
A.J. Ellis drew a walk to lead off the bottom of the inning. Juan Uribe bunted and reached base, as first baseman Ryan Howard slipped and fell on his bottom while attempting to field the ball.
A sacrifice bunt by Nick Punto advanced the runners to second and third, then Mattingly called on Hanley Ramirez to pinch-hit for Greinke. Predictably, De Fratus intentionally walked Ramirez to load the bases with one out.
Skip Schumaker struck out, bringing up Puig. Three pitches later, the Dodgers were ahead, 5-4, and the fans were serenading Puig with a chant that was reserved in previous seasons for the likes of Matt Kemp and Manny Ramirez.
"As long as the team is winning, I don't want to take full credit for the success," Puig said. "It's a team game."
Kemp added to the Dodgers' lead an inning later, offering a reminder that Puig isn't the team's only elite athlete.
Kemp led off the eighth inning with a single to left-center off Antonio Bastardo, then stole second and third base. He scored on a sacrifice fly by A.J. Ellis to increase the margin to 6-4.
Kemp drove in the first run in the Dodgers' three-run first inning, as he doubled in Puig. The double by Kemp was followed by one from Ethier, which scored two more runs, and the Dodgers were up, 3-0.
But the Dodgers' bats suddenly went silent, as Phillies starter Jonathan Pettibone retired the last 15 batters he faced. Greinke couldn't hold the three-run advantage, as he gave up four runs and 12 hits in seven innings.
But Greinke still picked up the victory, thanks to Puig.