Freddy vs. Jason. Rocky versus Drago. Bryce Harper versus a wall.
We know an iconic matchup when we see one, and Yasiel Puig versus Albert Pujols could blossom into one of the more entertaining clashes of ego we’ll see in baseball this year.
Puig and Pujols endeavored in a bit of tit-for-tat trolling during the first game of the Dodgers-Angels Freeway Series on Monday night. The shenanigans started in the bottom of the first, when Puig caught the Angels first baseman on the heel with a cleat.
The contact appeared incidental, and Pujols filed it away for future reference.
The true trolling began in sixth inning after Puig caught a routine fly and sent Angels shortstop Erick Aybar skittering back to first.
The two men exchanged good-natured finger wags and moved on.
Next came Pujols’ turn for revenge. Being the nimble stallion he is, the Angels’ 34-year-old first baseman tagged up on a routine fly ball to center in the eighth inning and caught Puig admiring his glove work.
Pujols beat the throw, and both sides seized the opportunity to pile the grief on Puig. Pujols particularly enjoyed imitating Puig’s picnic catch, while Juan Uribe hopped on the young outfielder’s case in the dugout.
Later in the game, Puig made another routine catch and waved Pujols on to third, daring him to make a run for it.
The first baseman declined, and the Angels went on to blank the Dodgers, 5-0.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told reporters after the game that his star outfielder had been taken to school.
“[Puig] just got a lesson, and hopefully he learns it,” Mattingly told The Associated Press (h/t The Washington Post). “Albert basically embarrassed him right there.”
Pujols approached questions about his tagging up less directly.
“That’s how you play the game,” Pujols said. “[Puig] can have fun, too. I’m having fun. He can do whatever he wants.”
See, guys? Sometimes baseball players can mess with each other without anyone catching a fastball to the teeth. Progress!
As for the Puig-Pujols showdown, the Freeway Series affords them three more opportunities in the next three days to settle the score.
Pop your popcorn, folks.
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