LOS ANGELES — Yasiel Puig is just 22 years old, and already has established himself as one of the most dangerous hitters in the major leagues — as well as a role model for his teammates who enjoy his gung-ho style in the outfield and on the base paths.
Puig singled home the tying and go-ahead runs in the seventh inning, Andre Ethier had a two-run double, and the Los Angeles Dodgers opened a four-game series against the Philadelphia Phillies with a 6-4 victory on Thursday night.
“He kind of reminds me of myself,” Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp said of the Cuban rookie sensation. “Sometimes he plays too hard, and sometimes you have to tell him: ‘Man, calm down. You can’t make every play.’ But he’s done an amazing job in his first month in the big leagues. He’s gotten big hits and made big plays on defense. He’s doing a lot, and I think we’re just feeding off the kid.”
Zack Greinke (4-3) struck out five over seven innings and allowed four runs on 12 hits, including solo homers by Domonic Brown and Chase Utley, to help the Dodgers get their season-best sixth straight win.
Puig was shaken up crashing into the right field auxiliary scoreboard while trying to track Utley’s ninth homer in the top of the seventh that put Philadelphia ahead 4-3. However, Puig was none the worse for wear — as he proved moments later.
The Dodgers loaded the bases in the bottom half against rookie reliever Justin De Fratus (2-2) without the benefit of a hit. A.J. Ellis walked and Juan Uribe reached on a bunt that first baseman Ryan Howard tried to field before slipping and falling on the play. Nick Punto advanced the runners with another bunt, and Hanley Ramirez drew an intentional walk while batting for Greinke.
Skip Schumaker was called out on strikes for the second time, but Puig slapped an 0-2 pitch to left field to put the Dodgers ahead 5-4.
“He was ready to hit, so my plan there was to slow him down and try to use his aggressiveness against him,” De Fratus said. “It worked on the first two pitches. I didn’t think I threw a bad pitch on the next one, but it wasn’t where I was trying to get it and he burned me.”
Puig is batting a robust .427 with seven homers and 16 RBIs in just 23 big league games.
“His energy just feeds into all of us,” Ellis said. “We all dream and wish we could play the way he’s playing, and it makes us want to play better. It’s an energy and a way to play the game that you don’t see too much. When he crashed into the fence, I just wanted to see him pop back up. I love his aggressiveness and love him trying to make a play right there.”
Kemp, playing in his third game after missing a month with an injured right hamstring, was 2 for 4 with an RBI double. He led off the eighth with a single, then stole second and third base and scored on Ellis’ sacrifice fly.
“I’ve got to test it out. I can’t play timid. I’ve got to play aggressive,” Kemp said of the hamstring. “That’s the way I’ve always been and the way I have to play. He wasn’t paying too much attention when I was on second base, so I tried to take a chance right there. I’m tired of not making the playoffs, so my biggest thing is trying to help my team get there in any way. I feel good. I guess I’ve got them young Puig legs.”
Kenley Jansen followed J.P. Howell and Ronald Belisario out of the bullpen and got the last three outs for his seventh save in nine chances.
Phillies rookie Jonathan Pettibone threw 96 pitches through six innings and was lifted for a pinch-hitter after giving up three runs and four hits. The right-hander retired his final 15 batters.
Pettibone found himself trailing 3-0 after just 17 pitches. Kemp hit an RBI double inside third base, and two more runs came in on Ethier’s double. Right fielder Delmon Young prevented another run, sprinting toward the corner and stretching out to grab Ellis’ extra-base bid.
Young tied a career high with four hits — all singles — and put himself within seven of 1,000 for his career.
Brown, in his first career at-bat against Greinke, put Philadelphia on the board in the second when he drove a 3-2 fastball to center for his 21st homer and tied Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez for the NL lead. Greinke then gave up a single to Young and a walk to Kevin Frandsen before picking off Young at second base.
The Phillies tied it 3-all in the fifth with four consecutive one-out hits, including run-scoring singles by Utley and Jimmy Rollins — only his second RBI in 10 games.
“Zack probably didn’t have his best stuff, but he just competed,” Ellis said. “That’s a tough lineup. I mean, they match up all those tough lefties at the top and they have a good mix of players with a lot of professional hitters. But Zack held on and gave us a chance.”
NOTES: Former Phillies C Darren Daulton, who played for their 1993 NL championship team and spent the majority of his 15 big league seasons with them, was diagnosed with two brain tumors and will undergo surgery next week. The announcement was made Thursday in a statement by the radio station in Philadelphia that has broadcasted his program, “Talking Baseball with Dutch,” for the past four years. ... Two days after UCLA captured its first College Baseball World Series title, most of the players from the team were introduced one-by-one along the first base line just before the start of the game. At the end of the line were two former Bruins who played for the Dodgers — Tim Leary and Todd Zeile, whose son Shane is a catcher of the current squad. ... Utley, who also played for UCLA, has six home runs and a .320 average in 31 career games at Dodger Stadium. He was 3 for 5 Thursday. ... Frandsen started at 3B for the third time this season in place of Michael Young, who didn’t start after playing in 21 consecutive games and starting in 20 of them. ... Kemp is 9 for 9 on stolen base attempts.