LOS ANGELES — Max Muncy was a big part of what the Dodgers did offensively in the regular season. He led the team in home runs (35), walks (79) and OPS (.973), all while only having 481 plate appearances.
Going back to Sunday in San Francisco, Muncy has hit a home run in three straight games. A two-run splash into McCovey Cove Sunday, a big two-run blast in Monday’s division-clinching win over Colorado, followed by a three-run shot in just his second career plate appearance in the playoffs.
After a brief slump that looked like it could derail his dream season back at the end of July, he turned it back on and has carried it into the postseason.
Starting with an 0-for-7 in a 16-inning loss to Philadelphia back on July 24, the 28-year-old went into a slide that saw him hit .171/.241/.447 over 26 games, lasting well into August.
“I don’t remember much about that game,” said Muncy. “Honestly, it’s just baseball. There’s not one person in this league, in the minor leagues, in college, that hasn’t gone through a stretch like that. That’s just the nature of the game, and you just gotta figure out how to get through it.”
“Each day you start off 0 for 0.”
Even if Muncy wasn’t a guy with a track record of success at the big league level, the Dodgers and manager Dave Roberts weren’t worried about the rough patch.
“Every hitter is going to go through a time when they’re not seeing the baseball well, and Max, it was probably about two weeks,” Roberts said. “But after that -- you know, before that, after that, he’s been very good in the strike zone. He’s had a tremendous season.”
NLDS Game 2 lineups
|LF||Acuña Jr||LF||Pederson (L)|
|1B||Freeman (L)||1B||Muncy (L)|
|2B||Albies (S)||CF||Bellinger (L)|
“But his DNA to be able to stay in the strike zone is pretty special, pretty unique, and so yeah, to see him in this moment, not surprised.”
That ability was on full display Thursday when Muncy walked three times, becoming one of two players in baseball history (Eddie Murray) to hit a homer, walk three times and steal a base in the same postseason game.
“I think it’s a combination,” Roberts responded when asked about how much of Muncy’s success is gift versus preparation. “But I think most of it probably is just his innate ability to recognize a strike versus ball, and the value of not making an out. And it’s not -- we talk about not making outs, not trying to walk.”
“But just understanding the value of not making an out. I think that he understands that, and his ability to see the ball out of the hand is pretty special.”
The Long Ball
The Dodgers have hit a considerable amount of balls over the fence this season. Only the Yankees (267) hit more than the 235 the Dodgers did. Only seven teams have ever hit that many in the National League.
After hitting three more last night, Muncy and Joc Pederson were asked about the notion that you can’t rely too heavily on home runs in the playoffs.
“I never heard of that notion,” said Pederson. “(In) the postseason you’re facing some of the best pitchers, and good pitchers usually don’t give up home runs. So you gotta grind out at-bats and I think we do a great job of that and hit with runners on base, get the guy over, situational hitting all plays a part of it. But I mean, sometimes a home run does the job. So I don’t know what to tell you.”
Muncy believed the homers were part of the team’s overall sound philosophy of hitting.
“To me, I don’t really feel like there’s anyone on this team that’s going up there trying to hit a home run,” Muncy replied. “It’s just a result of us having a good approach and good at-bats. I feel like a lot of the home runs we’ve had have come off of long at-bats, working the counts and wearing the pitcher down.”
“Again, I don’t feel like we’re trying to hit a home run. It’s just the result of a good approach.”
Homers are fun, postseason or not. The Dodgers will have the same eight position players in the lineup as they did Thursday. They’ll be looking for more good at-bats against Atlanta starter Anibal Sanchez.