The Wild Horse is stuck in the stable.
He had hit five homers in a span of 20 hours, one of which left the stadium at a record 114MPH, the hardest hit home run by a Dodger since the exit velocity stat was first recorded in 2006. Yasiel Puig had just carried his team past the St. Louis Cardinals on back-to-back days, and launched his team back into the postseason picture.
On Monday, Puig stood on the steps of the Dodgers dugout looking out at the field dubbed "Blue Heaven on Earth." He lightly stroked his unkempt beard, flexed his bicep muscles as strong as steel, and revealed that contagious childish grin of his.
His youthful energy and exuberance are contagious. He's provided his team with a much-needed spark when they required it throughout the season, so naturally, he would be in the lineup every game for the pivotal three-game series with the first place Colorado Rockies.
Puig was in the starting lineup for the first game of the series on Monday, batting fifth, and recording two hits in an 8-2 victory that catapulted the Boys in Blue back into first place in the hotly contested NL West. The two hits marked Puig's 25th multi-hit game of the season, and came on a day he was named the National League Player of the Week.
There was no doubt in anyone's mind that Puig was by far turning everything he touched into scorched earth. In his last 11 games, he had hit .433 with six home runs and 11 RBI, he had placed the team on his proverbial back and the man coined the "Wild Horse," by Hall-of-Fame broadcaster Vin Scully, was ready to carry his team back into the postseason and possibly their sixth consecutive division title.
Do you remember that arcade game in the mid-90s called "NBA Jam?" It was an exaggerated style of basketball that featured two-on-two play, explosive slam dunks, monster heads, and a secret mode determined by the announcer's electrifying voice: "He's on Fire!"
When a player had made three consecutive shots from beyond the arc, everytime that player touched the basketball from that point forward, it turned into flames. As kids in arcades across the country soon learned, if a player was on fire, you gave him the ball until he missed.
To stay with that analogy, Yasiel Puig is on fire, and accordingly, he needs to be at the plate and in the lineup as often as humanly possible until he finally cools off. At least that's what NBA Jam and popular culture would tell you.
Despite that knowledge when the Dodgers starting lineup was posted in the dugout on Tuesday, Yasiel Puig's name was not on it.
"Yasiel has played a lot recently," said Dodgers' manager Dave Roberts, inexplicably explaining why Puig wasn't in the lineup against left-hander pitcher Kyle Freeland. "To get them a blow and a day off two days before an off day I think is a good thing."
Right-handers are batting .252 with 15 home runs and have more success against Freeland statistically than left-handed hitters who are batting a paltry .168 with just two home runs this season. Roberts and the front office know this about Freeland, so they stacked the staring lineup with all right-handed hitters. Puig was still not on it, and never appeared even as a pinch-hitter, despite six different pinch-hitters being used in a game that went to extra innings.
Puig was also noticeably absent from the team's walk-off celebration in the bottom of the tenth inning after Chris Taylor hit his first career game-ending longball. Puig is normally the first player out of the dugout to douse his teammates in Gatorade during these situations, but on Tuesday night he was nowhere to be seen.
News came out early Wednesday morning that Puig's Encino home had been burglarized for the fourth time, possibly explaining his absence on the field. TMZ reported that three suspects, the same ones believed to have tried to rob him on Aug. 30, broke into his home through a backdoor, ransacking the place and dragging a safe down the stairs before ultimately leaving it in the doorway. LAPD believes the burglars caused around $10,000 in damages.
Perhaps the unsettling feeling of having your home violated was behind the decision to not start Puig in the finale of the three-game series on Wednesday, but ultimately Roberts said it was more about finding playing time for Matt Kemp, than giving Yasiel another day off.
"I think that it's more of really trying to get Matt going," said Roberts before the game on Wednesday. "Yasiel will probably be in there on Friday. I know he's swinging the bat really well, righties and lefties."
"Really well," is an understatement for the reigning NL Player of the Week who if he does start on Friday, will have not played in a game in three consecutive days. A deep roster for the Dodgers packed with All-Star talent certainly makes it difficult to find playing time, and the personal issues surrounding his home and family don't help, but regardless, the hottest hitter on the team should be in the lineup down the stretch.
UPDATE: Proving the initial point of this story, Yasiel Puig appeared as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the seventh inning of a tie game on Wednesday night and hit the game-winning three-run home run.