ATLANTA — The boos rang loud, clear and angry the first two times Yasiel Puig's name
seeped through the loudspeakers at Turner Field Thursday.
The Atlanta Braves couldn't know it then, not with Game 1 of the National League Divisional Series still scoreless and not even two innings old, but Puig had them licked at that point.
The Dodgers young Cuban sensation was in their head, on their mind and hanging ominously in the air.
And that's how a lazy roller into centerfield became a triple, for all intents, a sacrifice fly turned into two runs and how a single player tilted the field and the NLDS decidedly into the Dodgers direction in one half inning of splendor.
On a night in which Clayton Kershaw wasn't close to being on top of his game and the unassuming Adrian Gonzalez discreetly dropped another hammer on someone, it was Puig who pointed the Dodgers in the right direction as they grabbed a 1-0 lead in this five-game series.
He did it subtly and inconspicuously.
He did it simply by showing up at Turner Field.
And then striking fear into the overly anxious Braves every time he turned up somewhere.
The more attention they paid him, the more doomed they were.
Those boos Atlanta serenaded Puig with during pregame introductions and as he strolled to home plate for the first postseason at-bat of his career?
Ample proof he was firmly planted in the domes of the home team.
All those throws to first base he elicited from Atlanta starter Kris Medlen after singling in the second inning?
Just more evidence he was messing with the Braves head, his speed and boldness on the basepaths an issue they were ill-equipped to deal with.
Not mentally, and certainly not in execution.
And it immediately showed.
Puig went first to third on a Juan Uribe single — after Medlen paid so much attention to him at first he lost track of his primary task of getting Uribe out.
Then he darted home on Skip Schumaker's fly ball to center, which was just shallow enough for Jason Heyward to foolishly think he had a chance to gun Puig down at home.
Heyward's throw floated harmlessly wide of the mark, allowing Uribe to take second base and move into scoring position.
A.J. Ellis followed with a double to score Uribe — who would have still been at third had Puig not forced Heyward's hand with the errant throw home.
All of a sudden the Dodgers led 2-0.
But everyone in the park knew what the real score was.
Puig 2 Braves 0.
Needless to say, there were no more boos for Mr. Puig.
He didn't win the game all by himself — a gutty performance by Kershaw, who wasn't sharp, the steady bat of Gonzalez and the unpretentious production of catcher A.J. Ellis all contributed to the cause.
But it was Puig who set it all up — first by getting in the Braves head and then exploiting them once there.
Puig is not well liked around here, his instant burst onto the baseball scene last summer nearly costing Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman an All-Star spot.
The uncertainty the veteran Freeman might get pushed off the team by a complete unkown barely a month or so into his career didn't sit well in Atlanta — in the community or the Braves clubhouse.
That's why Puig was treated like a villain before and during Game 1, with Braves fans' unleashing a loud round of boos at the mere mention of his name.
But nothing screams I've got your attention quite like loud, irritated boos.
Turner Field thought it could get into Puig's head, but he flipped it on the Braves and was soon dancing around in theirs.
They'll soon learn underneath all that ostentation and grandiosity lays a proud competitor, and their anger didn't hurt him as much as it inspired him.
And to think, some people worried Puig might doom the Dodgers more than the Braves with his reckless base running and blatant disregard for the finer points of the game.
It's been an issue all year with Puig, whose youth and exuberance sometimes means the Dodgers swallowing one spoonful of sour for every three spoonfuls of sweet Puig comes up with.
No sense sugar coating it. He can be maddening sometimes.
Why stop at second when third base is just 90 measly feet away, Puig's legs argue with his head, only to sometimes cost the Dodgers a potential run by getting thrown out.
Who needs to hit the cut-off man when I can throw a baseball from the right-field warning track to third base on a straight, explosive line, his volatile right arm sometimes convinces his common sense.
Only to miss the mark and allow an important run move into scoring position.
That was the worry heading into the postseason, right?
That the rougher edges of Puig might sabotage an inning or a game for the Dodgers?
And who knows, maybe the longer the Dodgers stick around the more inevitable that moment becomes.
But one game into his first postseason, he's already shown the kind of positive impact he can make.
And with the Dodgers down two starting outfielders in Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, they desperately need him to keep it up.
Maybe the irresponsible Puig shows up in Game 2.
This much we do know: The lethal Puig was dancing in the heads of the Braves Thursday.
And that was a great place to be if you're a Dodgers fan.