Mixed loyalties at Dodgers-Yankees makeup game

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Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers follows Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers follows through on a first inning hit against the New York Yankees during game one of a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium. (June 19, 2013) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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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.

At first blush, the Yankees' decision to postpone Tuesday night's game against the Dodgers and create a day-night doubleheader for Wednesday seemed questionable. Mostly because it didn't rain that much after about 8 p.m. Many games have been played in much worse conditions.

Whatever the Yankees' reasoning -- bad forecast, wanting to give their players a second day off after a West Coast swing, not wanting to miss the season finale of "The Voice" -- it led to a very unusual and enjoyable day at the ballpark for Game 1.

Interleague play has its blah matchups, but Yankees-Dodgers turned out not to be one of them. And not just because of Don Mattingly's presence in the visiting dugout.

No, the rainout begot that unique baseball experience: the makeup game. You never know how many fans will be able to use their tickets for a day game after a postponed night game. Usually, the stands are quite empty in these instances.

But Wednesday's first game was well-attended -- by Dodgers fans. Of the announced crowd of 40,604 (that's tickets sold for Tuesday night's game), there were about 20,000 at the game. Maybe half were rooting for the Dodgers, leading to "Let's Go Dodgers" vs. "Let's Go Yankees" chants. "It felt different," Yankees shortstop Jayson Nix said. "It just felt like a different kind of crowd out there. Usually, you don't have anyone in our stadium chanting for the other team."

Did they all come over from La-La Land? Or are there really that many old Dodgers fans left in the non-hipster parts of Brooklyn who made the trek for the franchise's first game in the Bronx since the 1981 World Series?

There was a healthy contingent behind the visiting dugout on the third-base side cheering for the Dodgers' Korean starter, Hyun-Jin Ryu. Add that to the usual Japanese fans for Ichiro Suzuki (3-for-4, homer, three RBIs) and winning pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, and the stadium had quite an international feel to it.

That's before you factor in the Dodgers' Cuban rightfielder, Yasiel Puig. He stole the show with flair and a ferocity that made the hype that preceded his arrival feel inadequate.

Puig, whom the Dodgers signed for $42 million, came into the day batting .479 with a 1.271 OPS. He hit four home runs in his first five big-league games and has drawn comparisons to Bo Jackson for his athleticism.

But more than the numbers is the way the 22-year-old displayed aggressiveness in every facet of the game. Swinging, running the bases, throwing . . . it was as if he is playing at football speed in a baseball game.

"He hits the ball hard, I can tell you that," Joe Girardi said. "He's got a very good arm and is aggressive. He has tools -- a lot of tools. He has speed, he has power, he has a good arm. You can recognize the tools right away."

But it's something more -- something that had an entire stadium, even half-filled, postponing its beer or soda runs whenever Puig came to the plate.

Twice, Puig (2-for-5) hit routine base hits to center and kept running for second. The first time, he was out by a whisper. The second, with the Dodgers down 6-2 in the eighth, he was safe for a double.

Puig nearly threw out Thomas Neal at first on a single to right in the second inning. Who attempts that unless a pitcher is batting? He almost got Neal, too.

Puig, who also hit a rocket to center and a sizzling one-hopper to second for outs, ended the Yankees' 6-4 victory by striking out looking on a 2-and-2 pitch against Mariano Rivera. It was an exciting matchup and a fitting end to an unusual and terrific afternoon at the ballpark.

Puig put on another show in the nightcap in front of a crowd that was more normal in size and rooting interest. The rookie homered, had a bunt single, stole a base and scored three runs in the Dodgers' 6-0 victory.

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