MIAMI (AP) — Yasiel Puig sent his bat flying with a celebratory shovel pass, which freed both hands so he could slap his chest as he slowly began to jog.
No rush – the Los Angeles Dodgers slugger beat the Miami Marlins with one strike to spare.
Puig hit his second homer of the game on a 1-2 pitch with two out in the ninth inning Friday night, and the three-run shot helped the Dodgers beat Miami 6-4 for their seventh win in a row.
“I’ve been trying to hit better with two strikes,” the Cuban defector said in Spanish. “I’ve been calmer at the plate.”
Puig increased his homer total to 18, one shy of his career high in 2013.
“I am trying to get to 20 and break all my personal records,” he said. “But the most important thing is to help my team win and reach the World Series.”
Corey Seager also homered for the Dodgers (62-29), were one strike from defeat three times before winning for the 27th time in the past 31 games. Starting the season’s second half, they climbed to 33 games above .500 for the first time this year.
The Marlins led 4-3 when Joc Pederson singled on a 1-2 pitch with two out in the ninth against A.J. Ramos (2-4). It was the first hit by the Dodgers since the fifth inning.
Pederson moved up on a wild pitch, Yasmani Grandal walked on a 3-2 pitch, and both runners advanced on another wild pitch.
Puig fell behind 0-2, took a ball and then pulled a 94-mph fastball into the home run sculpture. Ramos blew a save for the second time in 19 chances.
“I threw it where he could hit it out,” said Ramos, who declined to blame All-Star break rustiness. “I was one strike away. I was sharp enough for that. Just couldn’t get the last out.”
The Dodgers improved to 30-6 with Puig batting eighth. He’s second on the team in homers.
“I’ve wanted to tell the manager to put me higher up, but I think it’s better to stay there,” Puig said. “And if he bats me ninth, the same. As long as I’m in the lineup.”
Said manager Dave Roberts: “He has had a career year. He’s tempting me to move him up in the order, but we’re very offensive and we’re doing something right.”
Los Angeles starter Brandon McCarthy allowed four runs in 4 2/3 innings, but four relievers blanked Miami.
“We just weren’t able to add on,” Marlins manager Don Mattingly said. “You’re wanting another run or two with those guys, because you know they’re capable of scoring.”
Josh Fields (5-0) pitched a perfect eighth before the Dodgers’ rally, and Kenley Jansen earned his 22nd save with a 1-2-3 ninth.
Miami starter Dan Straily pitched five innings and allowed three runs, including two homers.
Entire sections of empty seats returned to Marlins Park three days after the All-Star Game, with the ballpark barely half-full. Announced attendance was 21,858.
The Marlins took the lead with three runs in the fifth. Giancarlo Stanton doubled home one run, and Justin Bour hit a two-out, two-run double, ending McCarthy’s night.
Puig put the Dodgers ahead 2-1 when he hit a homer estimated at 449 feet on the first pitch of the fifth inning. With two out, Seager homered off the facade of the upper deck.
Pederson doubled off the top of the wall leading off the second. With two out, second baseman Dee Gordon dropped a throw on a steal attempt, allowing Pederson to score from third.
“I don’t think it’s a lot of fun to face us right now,” McCarthy said. “Whether we’re doing it in the first or we’re doing it in the ninth, it feels like our offense is going to go. Three straight at bats when you’re a strike away, it almost felt like it was going to happen.”
Dodgers: LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu (bruised left foot) threw 58 pitches in a simulated game but won’t be activated during the Dodgers’ trip, manager Dave Roberts said. It’s uncertain whether he’ll return to the rotation or go to the bullpen.
Marlins: RHP Edinson Volquez (left patella tendinitis) was scratched from his scheduled start Sunday, but the Marlins don’t think it will be a long-term issue, Mattingly said. … INF Miguel Rojas (right thumb) is expected to make several more rehab starts before rejoining the Marlins.
Dodgers LHP Alex Wood (10-0, 1.67) is scheduled to face RHP Jose Urena (7-3, 3.54) on Saturday.