LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com/AP) — June was a month to savor for Los Angeles Dodgers rookie Yasiel Puig and one to forget for Philadelphia Phillies’ slumping first baseman Ryan Howard.
Puig ended his sensational first month in the major leagues with his first four-hit game, Stephen Fife scattered four hits over seven scoreless innings and the Dodgers beat the Phillies 6-1 Sunday to take three of four in the series.
“Puig’s definitely brought an energy and a spark to us, and his skill level, I think, is a little more than anybody anticipated it would be,” Fife said. “Ever since he first got here, I’ve had a lot of friends and family ask me: `Hey, what’s it like?’ And I just say: `Keep watching, because it’s going to be historic.’ And as it’s turned out, it’s been a pretty historic start.”
Puig finished June with 44 hits, surpassing the 42 by Pittsburgh’s Bob Elliott in September 1939 for the second-most in a player’s first full calendar month in the major leagues. Joe DiMaggio had 48 in May 1936.
“Obviously, the league is going to start to make adjustments when they start figuring out what counts and what pitches he may struggle with or have less success with,” Philadelphia’s Jimmy Rollins said. “And then he’ll have to readjust his game. But right now, he’s done everything he needs to do.”
Puig also eclipsed the Los Angeles Dodgers’ record for most hits in a month by a rookie, set by Steve Sax in August 1982. The Cuban-born right fielder got his first major league triple in the fifth inning and scored on Adrian Gonzalez’s double for a 4-0 lead.
Puig singled his first two times up and stole second base both times. He scored the game’s first run in the fourth inning on a single by Hanley Ramirez. Matt Kemp and Jerry Hairston Jr. also had RBI singles that inning.
The only reason Puig led off the fourth was because Fife was picked off first base by catcher Carlos Ruiz for the final out in the third. Puig also doubled in the seventh.
“He appears to me to be a complete package of a top-tier ballplayer,” Five said. “And to see somebody do that in the big leagues for the four weeks he’s been up now is very impressive. I think he’s taken a lot of pressure off a lot of people in here, just because he’s producing at such an unbelievable rate.”
A.J. Ellis had an RBI double among his three hits and threw out two baserunners trying to steal, helping lead the Dodgers to their eighth victory in nine games. He finished the month with a .436 average, 16 RBIs and seven home runs.
Fife (3-2) had five strikeouts in his second straight win. The right-hander has a 2.21 ERA over in six starts since being inserted into the rotation on June 3.
“It was a good mix of everything,” Fife said. “I tried to keep the ball down in the zone and was mixing in the changeup and the curveball throughout the whole day. My fastball command kind of went erratic in the third, so I threw the changeup and that kind of got me back on line. Then things started cruising.”
Jose Dominguez, promoted from Triple-A on Saturday, pitched a perfect eighth inning in his big league debut. The righty struck out his first batter, Delmon Young, on a fastball that registered 101 mph on the Dodger Stadium speed gun.
Howard, back in the lineup after sitting out the previous two games because of left-handed starters, was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. He is hitless in his last 20 at-bats with 11 strikeouts.
“I’m not happy about it,” the 2006 NL MVP said. “Obviously, you don’t go out there and say: `I want to go 0-for-this entire trip.’ It’s a battle and a grind, and it’s a very frustrating game at times.”
Kyle Kendrick (7-5) gave up four runs and 10 hits in six innings. The right-hander was saved by his batting helmet in the sixth when a pitch glanced off the back of it as he tried to duck out of the way.
Fife squatted on the front slope of the mound, showing concern for Kendrick before the Phillies pitcher went to first base. Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt came out to settle down Fife, who included Michael Young to hit into a forceout and got Chase Utley to ground into an inning-ending double play.
“He came up to bunt in the third inning and I sailed one over his head, which was completely unintentional. Then in the sixth, I actually hit him in the head,” Fife said. “For me, there are rules in this game — and one of them is, never hit a pitcher. So I got a little rattled. My biggest worry is that he would leave the game with a concussion. I didn’t really see the blow, but I heard the noise. I probably owe him more than an apology. It’s not something I intend to do ever again.”
Rollins drove in Philadelphia’s run with a two-out RBI single in the ninth.
The Dodgers embark on a nine game road trip that kicks off on Tuesday in Colorado.
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