Yasiel Puig: “This is a game of entertainment. I don’t play it to offend people.”

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Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig has been a lightning rod for criticism since making his major league debut on June 3 last season. He has upset several pitchers — along with plenty of writers, commentators, and fans — for flipping a bat. Sometimes on home runs, sometimes not. Puig has also made some fundamental errors defensively and on the bases.

Puig has also been, without question, one of the best players in baseball over the last two seasons. He’s tied with Mike Trout and Chris Davis for the third-best weighted on-base average (wOBA) since the start of 2013 at .412. The league average is .314. His 6.6 Wins Above Replacement, per FanGraphs, is tied for 17th-best with David Wright despite having the lowest amount of playing time among those in the top-20.

Puig doesn’t seem bristled by people who ignore his talents to focus on other details. Via MLB.com’s Paul Hagen:

“It’s my style. It’s the way I’ve played baseball for a long time. I don’t really worry about the other team or what other players think about me, other than our team,” he said. “As far as what other people think, I try to play the game hard and I try to play the game happy. I want to have a good time when I’m playing. This is a game of entertainment. I don’t play it to offend people. But I do have a good time playing the game of baseball.”

Puig made a ridiculous circus catch on Thursday night against the Mets. It’s a catch few outfielders past or present make. He’s fun to watch, and it’s fun to watch him having fun. Many hate the athletes who are clearly in it for the money, but then they turn around and try to ostracize one of the few players who is demonstrably having a good time out there. It’s tough to understand.

Bud Norris exits outing with right knee soreness

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Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.

While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.

 

When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.

Video: Max Scherzer sets record with 13-strikeout outing

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Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.

More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.

Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)

It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.