Cardinals outfox Dodgers again, lead NLCS 2-0

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Michael Wacha celebrates striking St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Michael Wacha celebrates striking out the Los Angeles Dodgers' Juan Uribe to end the sixth inning of Game 2 of the National League Championship Series at Busch Stadium. (Oct. 12, 2013) Photo Credit: Getty

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ST. LOUIS - Dodgers phenom Yasiel Puig prefers to answer questions with the help of an interpreter. But there are times when little gets lost in translation.

"No," he said through his translator when asked if he has grown frustrated.

Yet his body language during the game told another tale.

Puig spiked his bat after striking out in the first inning and barked at umpire Mark Carlson before whiffing with the bases loaded in the sixth.

And in the clubhouse, after the Dodgers' pivotal 1-0 loss in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series, Puig let his feelings be known with every eye roll and snicker.

No language barrier could obscure the meaning.

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"He's frustrated, I think," said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, whose team must beat Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright in Game 3 to avoid falling into a 3-0 hole in the series.

Puig finished 0-for-4 -- all strikeouts -- including his losing confrontation in the sixth against righthander Michael Wacha, the Cardinals' outstanding 22-year-old rookie. But perhaps more alarming is just how lost Puig has looked, with his wild swings sending his body spinning toward the ground.

"It happens in the game, it's happened before," said Puig, who fell to 0-for-10 with six strikeouts in the series.

Puig hardly deserves all the blame. After all, it takes a village to knock a $230-million machine off its rails.

Shortstop Hanley Ramirez, perhaps the most dangerous bat in the Dodgers' lineup, was a late scratch because of soreness after he took a fastball in the ribs in Game 1. His status for the rest of the series is questionable. Centerfielder Andre Ethier was relegated to pinch-hitting duty after experiencing soreness in his left ankle, a lingering issue.

Meanwhile, Mattingly invited more criticism of his managerial decisions. He pulled lefty ace Clayton Kershaw after only 72 pitches for a pinch hitter in the seventh. The move didn't work and Kershaw was finished after allowing an unearned run in six innings.

The Cardinals scored the game's only run in the fifth when David Freese doubled, reached third on a passed ball by catcher A.J. Ellis and scored on Jon Jay's sacrifice fly. It was enough for Wacha, who tossed 62/3 shutout innings.

Puig could have altered the outcome. Instead, he has come up surprisingly small.

The Cardinals' plan against Puig has been to allow the slugger to get himself out, seizing on his tendency to swing freely. Through two games, the Cardinals have been given no reason to change.

"We're trying to make pitches, trying to stay down, trying to stay aggressive, trying to make pitches with the off-speed," catcher Yadier Molina said. "Don't give him anything to hit."

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The most glaring example came in the sixth inning. With the bases loaded, one out and the Dodgers trailing by one, Puig flailed at a 94-mph fastball below his knees for strike three. He has left 11 runners on base in the two games.

Ramirez chalked up Puig's results to a matter of experience. He even spoke to the rookie after Game 1 about resisting the urge to press.

Ramirez said he planned to speak with Puig again on the plane ride back to Los Angeles for Game 3.

"That's the difference between young guys and veteran guys," Ramirez said. "But he's going to learn."

Puig, however, bristled at the notion that he's lost. He insisted that his swing is no different from the one that torched the Braves in the National League Division Series.

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"It's the same swing," said Puig, who so far has offered little in the way of evidence.

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