With their 4-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday night, the Dodgers are now one win away from being World Series champions. Here are three takeaways from their Game 5 victory.
The first inning was crucial
After the stunning loss on Saturday night, it wouldn’t have surprised anyone if the Dodgers came out sluggish in this game. Safe to say, the loss was behind them and they were focused on winning this game. Mookie Betts doubled to lead off the contest and then quickly came in to score on a single from Corey Seager. Before some of the fans in the stands could get to their seats, the Dodgers already had a lead.
“It was huge,” Max Muncy said when asked about jumping out to the early lead. “None of us were thinking of last night. We were worried about today. Everyone went out there and executed their plan like they were supposed to.”
The Dodgers didn’t add just one run, they added two. After a wild pitch advanced Seager to second and another advanced him to third, Cody Bellinger singled him in to give LA a 2-0 lead. Just like that, the Dodgers were up two for their longtime ace, Clayton Kershaw. The tone was established, and it helped carry them through the rest of the game.
The bullpen locked things down
Kershaw was removed after 5⅔ innings, so Dave Roberts turned to his bullpen to get 10 outs. Not only did they get the outs needed, they didn’t allow a single run to score.
“To get a win was huge, anyway we could get it,” Roberts said. “The guys in the bullpen, it was fun to watch. They really came up big tonight.”
After Kershaw was pulled, the team turned to Dustin May. He’s struggled recently, but really gave the Dodgers a solid outing. He lasted 1⅔ innings, striking out two while allowing a hit. After May, Roberts turned to Victor Gonzalez with one out in the eighth inning.
“For me, it was if Dustin could give us two innings that would be enough,” Roberts said. “With the top of that order, it was worth it. I like Victor. I just liked that matchup and he performed.”
Boy did Gonzalez perform on the big stage. After allowing a walk, two runners were on with only one out for the hottest hitter on the planet, Randy Arozarena. He got him to fly out, and then got the next hitter to fly out, ending the inning and sending the Dodgers to the ninth up two runs.
In the bottom half of the inning, Roberts turned to Blake Treinen to close things out. Roberts was asked about potentially using Kenley Jansen, saying they were both great choices. “I just liked Blake right there,” he said. “I felt that we lean on Kenley, we haven’t done three [games] in a row in quite some time. I liked it right here. Kenley is high leverage, but they’re both unbelievable guys in high leverage.”
He made the right call, as Treinen closed things down with two strikeouts as the Dodgers won.
Muncy and his amazing eye
Corey Seager has been the best hitter for the Dodgers this series, along with pretty much the entire postseason. However, nobody gives better at bats than Max Muncy, and he did so again on Sunday night.
Don’t worry, you’re not crazy for thinking that Muncy has a 3-2 count every time he’s up, because he does. Muncy works counts better than anyone on the team, and has delivered some amazing at bats in recent weeks.
[Editor’s note: Muncy worked a full count on 24 of his 76 plate appearances (31.6 percent) this postseason. During the regular season, 15 percent of all major league PA had a full count.]
“Stats and all that doesn’t mean much to me,” Muncy said. “Except for maybe walks, because that means I’m getting on base and giving my team a chance to score runs. All I care about winning.”
I think Muncy really enjoys walks. He’s walked 20 times this postseason, tied for the second most ever in a single postseason. He has a walk in five straight games, and 12 of his last 13 games. That’s amazing.
In addition to his walk, Muncy also had two hits with a solo home run. A home run that included an epic bat drop. “There’s not too many times you’re going to connect on 100 mph on the barrel,” he said. “It felt really solid. The swing felt really good.”
After a rough 2020 season, Muncy has really figured things out at the plate in October. He’s hitting .268, but his on-base percentage is .461. He’s getting on base in nearly half of his at bats. In fact, over his last 11 games, his on-base percentage is exactly .500.
Muncy could have carried his struggles into October. Instead, he stuck with his approach, and is finally getting the results him and Roberts know he is capable of.