Dodgers irrepressible outfielder Yasiel Puig is worth the price of admission

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Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Zack Greinke delivers
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Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Zack Greinke delivers against the New York Mets in the first inning of an MLB baseball game at Citi Field on Thursday, May 22, 2014.(Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke)

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Anthony Rieber Newsday columnist Anthony Rieber

Anthony Rieber has been at Newsday since Aug. 31, 1998 and in his current position since 2004.

Last week, the Mets got to play at Yankee Stadium and see what it's like to hit in a ballpark that doesn't suppress your offense and depress your hitters.

This week, they get to see what it's like to play against the team with the highest payroll in baseball. It's not the Yankees. It's the Dodgers, who won their second straight last night at Citi Field, 4-3, behind home runs from Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig and Hanley Ramirez.

The Dodgers have supplanted the Yankees as baseball's best traveling road show. Their fans, many of whom came to see Korean starter Hyun-Jin Ryu, seemed to take over Citi Field the way Mets fans took over the Bronx in Game 1 of the Subway Series.

Really, because of balanced schedules and time differences, we don't get to fully appreciate what Magic Johnson and his co-owners have done since buying the Dodgers in March 2012. It's Hollywood every night.

The Dodgers' Opening Day payroll was about $230 million, according to The Associated Press. The Yankees were second at about $204 million.

Big-market teams acting like big-market teams.

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The Mets were 22nd at $89 million, and that was before they sent most of Ike Davis' $3.1 million contract to the Pirates last month.

Just like the Yankees, the Dodgers are not perfect, with a record of 25-22. But both have spent to build a contender -- and does anyone doubt they'll both spend again before the season ends?

The Dodgers have a rotation top three of Clayton Kershaw, Thursday night's starter Zack Greinke and Ryu, who thrilled his enthusiastic, selfie-taking fans by allowing two runs in six innings.

They also have blossoming young leadoff man Dee Gordon and a 3-4-5-6 of Ramirez, Gonzalez, Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford. They have high-priced former star pitchers Dan Haren, Josh Beckett and Brian Wilson and a fourth outfielder in Andre Ethier with an $85 million contract who might bat cleanup if he were on the Mets.

And they have the irrepressible Puig, the most exciting player in the game.

Puig (1-for-3, walk) wowed the crowd of 23,721 in the first by lining out to center. The ball was hit with such force that fans actually gasped. In the sixth, he homered to left-center, complete with a bat flip. In the bottom of the seventh, he made an ill-advised try at a diving catch on a David Wright liner. It skipped by him for a double.

Before the game, Puig spoke guardedly about a number of topics, but lit up twice: when talking about his teammates' merciless ribbing after he forgot how many outs there were in Tuesday's 9-4 victory; and his plans to visit Times Square, the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty before Thursday night's series finale.

Tuesday's mental gaffe -- Puig fired the ball to third base after catching the third inning's final out -- made the highlight shows. He also went 3-for-4 with a double, walk, hit-by-pitch, two runs and an RBI. On the double, he missed a home run to right by inches.

He is batting .333 with 10 HRs and 37 RBIs. He was available to all teams after defecting from Cuba. The Dodgers got a bargain at seven years and $42 million.

Terry Collins was asked who he thought the one hitter is to avoid on the Dodgers.

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"It's pretty hard, isn't it?" Collins said. "They've got a few of them. You worry about who's the hottest guy right now with their lineup. Puig would be that guy. But it's a tough thing to decide who that guy is."

Unfortunately for Collins, opponents don't have such a problem dealing with the 20-25, last-place, sinking-feeling Mets.

Citi Field erupted into cheers after Wright struck out for the final out. No Hollywood ending here.

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