LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Dodgers went through a surreal streak of success this summer, followed by a freefall from grace that saw them lose 16 of 17 games.
Understandably, there was great relief when the team snapped the slide and clinched the National League West last weekend.
The focus subsequently was expected to be on locking down home field for the postseason, but one player interrupted those plans.
Right fielder Yasiel Puig, a source of drama since he reached the majors in 2013, was benched for the last two games by manager Dave Roberts for disciplinary reasons.
Puig is expected to be back in the lineup Tuesday for the second game of a three-game series against the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium.
On Saturday, Puig tried to steal second on his own in the ninth inning, failed to slide and was thrown out to end a 2-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants.
Roberts benched the 26-year-old on Sunday, for that as well as a few other unmentioned lapses in discipline.
The emotional outfielder dug the hole deeper Monday when he was late for a mandatory pregame workout. Roberts scratched Puig from the lineup, and Puig didn’t play in Los Angeles’ 100th victory of the season, a 9-3 decision over the Padres.
“It has to be clear in the clubhouse that it’s about finishing strong as a team. No one player is bigger than the team,” the manager said. “He made this decision, not me.”
Puig has been a lightning rod since he reached the majors. An immensely talented player, he was also regularly undisciplined on and off the field, things reaching a height last season when the Dodgers sent him to the minors, in essence saying it was time for him to get his act together.
Puig had been a model citizen in 2017 until the recent incidents.
“He has made tremendous strides,” Roberts said. “It’s unfortunate. We talk a lot about accountability as a team. When someone shows up late, there are consequences, as there should be.”
Roberts said after the Monday win that he and Puig spoke and the situation had started to mend, with the manager adding that Puig should be back in action Tuesday.
Puig has been a big part of the team’s division-winning season, hitting .259 with a career-high 26 home runs and 70 RBIs to go with Gold Glove-worthy defense.
Dodgers lefty Alex Wood (15-3, 2.71 ERA) starts Tuesday, and it could be his last start of the regular season with just five games remaining. At most he might make a brief start in the season finale.
In 11 career appearances against the Padres, including seven starts, Wood has a 3-2 record with a 2.57 ERA. This season he is 1-1 with a 3.21 ERA in three appearances, including two starts, against San Diego.
Dinelson Lamet will start Tuesday for the Padres. The rookie is 7-7 with a 4.45 ERA this season, but he has a 3.08 ERA and .195 opponents average in his past 11 starts.
He was terrific in his first start against the Dodgers earlier this month. Facing Clayton Kershaw, Lamet allowed six hits and a run in six sharp innings but wound up with a tough-luck, 1-0 loss.
“It was a pleasure to face Kershaw. It definitely motivated me,” Lamet said. “I knew I was going to have to give my best effort, and I knew he was going to make pitches, so I had to do the same.
Padres manager Andy Green said, “You don’t want to lose a game, but to see somebody square off against Kershaw and for the most part match him is terrific. You can’t ask for anything more.”