LOS ANGELES — The essential moment of Max Muncy’s highlight reel against the San Francisco Giants, if not his entire career, came on June 9, 2019. On that sunny Sunday afternoon, Muncy hit a home run against Madison Bumgarner that landed in San Francisco Bay. The verbal barb Muncy hurled back at the mound – “go get it out of the ocean” – still rings familiar on both sides of a rivalry.
Muncy delivered the game-winning hit in the Dodgers’ 4-3 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Thursday night, a solo home run in the sixth inning of a tie game. It gave Muncy a commanding 5-for-11, three-homer batting line against the Giants this season. And it came against an old friend, Alex Wood, the left-handed pitcher who helped the Dodgers capture a championship last October.
Muncy’s dominance of the Giants has eclipsed a single moment against a single pitcher. His latest dagger was maybe the most enjoyable.
“He’s fiery so it’s fun facing him,” Muncy said of Wood. “You see him on the mound when you’re playing defense behind him. It’s a little different when you’re in the box.”
The Dodgers (31-19) are a half-game behind the San Diego Padres (32-19) for first place in the National League West. They have beaten the third-place Giants (30-20) four times in four tries this season.
Justin Turner and DJ Peters also homered for the Dodgers before an announced crowd of 16,343 at Dodger Stadium. Left-hander Victor Gonzalez (2-0) was credited with the win in a game that saw seven relievers limit San Francisco to three hits.
Gonzalez allowed a two-run home run to Donovan Solano in the top of the sixth inning, tying the score at 3-3. Muncy, down to an 0-and-2 count after fouling off three straight pitches from Wood (5-2), responded with his 11th home run of the season in the bottom of the sixth.
Muncy has a .351 batting average this month. He leads MLB in Baseball Reference’s version of Wins Above Replacement.
“Max, I think you could argue, is one of the best two or three baseball players in the game right now,” Manager Dave Roberts said.
Peters’ homer, a solo shot in the fifth inning, was the first home run of his career. Turner’s home run, his ninth of the season, immediately followed a Mookie Betts triple in the third inning.
Veteran left-hander David Price made his second spot start since returning from the injured list. He began the bullpen game by retiring all eight batters he faced, striking out five.
Alex Vesia, Joe Kelly, Gonzalez, Nate Jones and Blake Treinen bridged the gap to closer Kenley Jansen, who pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his 12th save of the season. Flashing a cut fastball that touched 96 mph, Jansen struck out two of the three batters he faced.
The Dodgers never trailed en route to their 13th victory in their last 15 games. Their resurgence has coincided with that of Muncy, whose 2020 season got off to a poor start when summer camps convened last June.
It was here at Dodger Stadium that Muncy fractured a finger when he was struck by a pitch in batting practice. At the time, he said he could not see the baseball out of the pitcher’s hand. The Dodgers subsequently altered the center field “batter’s eye” backdrop to make the baseball more visible from the batter’s box.
The teammate whose pitch hit Muncy in the hand? None other than Alex Wood.
“I don’t know if there were any flashbacks, but it was definitely in my head,” Muncy said of that moment. “There was definitely some intent behind every swing tonight. There’s no doubt about that. It was just one of those things that kind of happens and you’ve just got to move on from it.”
Muncy needed more time to recover from the fracture than a 60-game regular season allowed. His batting average was .192 by the end of September. Not until the postseason, Roberts said, did Muncy regain the confidence he needed to turn on an inside pitch without fear.
This season, Muncy’s batting average fell as low as .207 before he discovered his pre-finger fracture form on May 9. Of his 11 home runs this season, eight have come in the 20 games since.
“I felt the same way all year long,” he said. “When I went through that rough stretch, I was still seeing the ball well and getting good swings off.”
Thursday, Wood seemed to bring out the best in his former teammate.
A quick pitch from Wood appeared to catch Muncy off guard in his first plate appearance. Muncy stepped out of the batter’s box and called time before Wood could complete his next windup. He smiled at the Giants’ catcher, Curt Casali. He grounded out, waited patiently for a mistake, and finally got one in the sixth inning.
Max Muncy’s home run lifts Dodgers over Giants – Pasadena Star News Source link Max Muncy’s home run lifts Dodgers over Giants – Pasadena Star News