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Max Muncy’s walk-off, 3-run home run sends Dodgers into All-Star break on a high note

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Dodgers head into break 56-35

MLB: Arizona Diamondbacks at Los Angeles Dodgers Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

It took a little while, but the Dodgers found their offense late on Sunday, tying the game in a wild eighth inning, then winning 7-4 on a three-run walk-off home run by Max Muncy in the ninth to take two out of three against the Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium.

Albert Pujols opened the ninth with a leadoff single off J.B. Bukauskas, then was pinch-run for by Zach Reks, who was just called up Saturday. Zach McKinstry sacrificed Reks into scoring position, then Mookie Betts ran a 3-1 count before Arizona decided to intentionally walked him.

“It was a logical move to do,” Muncy said of the intentional walk to Betts.

That set the stage for Muncy, who will start at designated hitter for the National League All-Stars on Tuesday night. He designated this pitch well into the right field pavilion for the Dodgers’ second straight three-run inning, and their second straight win.

“They don’t even move,” Joe Davis said of Arizona’s outfielders on his home run call for SportsNet LA.

It seemed like the Dodgers’ record-Saturday production would carry over into Sunday. Betts led off the first inning with a home run, his third in the last five games. But that was the Dodgers’ only run in the first seven innings. Nobody other than Betts even had a hit until AJ Pollock doubled with one out in the fifth. He was stranded.

“You’d think it carries over automatically, but it just doesn’t work that way,” said Dave Roberts. “Our guys were still grinding, trying to take good at-bats. But we just couldn’t stress [Merrill] Kelly. Fortunately we got some momentum in that eighth and ninth inning.”

Down three runs in the eighth inning, the Dodgers loaded the bases with nobody out with a walk and two singles against Noé Ramirez. Justin Turner followed with a fly ball to the warning track that rightfielder Josh Reddick completely whiffed on. The would-be sacrifice fly still scored a run, but somehow was scored a single. After Will Smith was hit by a pitch one out later to bring home another run, the Dodgers gave that out back.

Chris Taylor singled to right center to bring home the tying run, but as another ball got away from Reddick, Turner was held at third base while Smith was caught tried to advance off second.

Kenley Jansen worked around a two-out single in the ninth to preserve the tie, and for his efforts picked up his first win of the season.

For starters

Tony Gonsolin had a typical 2021 performance on Sunday, which is to say he struggled at times with command, lived with runners on base — weaving in and out of so much traffic that on the SportsNet LA broadcast, Davis likened Gonsolin to “a motorcycle on the 405” — but still managed to escape a short outing relatively unscathed.

Three leadoff hitters reached base in Gonsolin’s four innings, but the only run came on a solo home run by catcher Stephen Vogt in the fourth. Gonsolin needed 83 pitches to get through those four innings, and is averaging 18.5 pitches per frame this season.

Gonsolin has also allowed six total runs in his seven games, never more than one in any single game. But he’s pitched past four innings only once, his 5⅓ scoreless innings on Tuesday in Miami.

“We were fortunate to get him through four innings,” Roberts said. “He just didn’t have the stuff to put guys away, and ran deep counts. The tempo for me was a little too slow today, too methodical.”

Despite the high pitch count, there were positives for Gonsolin, who induced a season-high 14 swinging strikes, including five each on his split-change and fastball. Gonsolin’s six strikeouts were one shy of his 2021 best.

Gonsolin left a tie game, but Arizona took advantage of the lower end of the Dodgers’ bullpen. Darien Nuñez allowed a double and single in the fifth for the go-ahead run in just his second major league game.

The Diamondbacks piled on in the seventh, when lefty Scott Alexander allowed hits to three of the four left-handed batters he faced, including a two-run home run by second-year catcher/centerfielder Daulton Varsho, who entered Sunday hitting .138/.250/.175 with no home runs. It was Varsho’s first career home run in 60 plate appearances against southpaws.

The Dodgers’ comeback win kept them within two games of San Francisco in the National League West.

Sunday particulars

Home runs: Mookie Betts (13), Max Muncy (19); Stephen Vogt (5), Daulton Varsho (1)

WP — Kenley Jansen (1-2): 1 IP, 1 hit

LP — J.B. Bukauskas (1-2): ⅓, 2 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk

Up next

The All-Star break is here, a four-day break for most Dodgers. But four players plus Dave Roberts and the coaching staff will head to Coors Field for All-Star festivities. The next Dodgers game is also in Denver, on Friday against the Rockies (5:40 p.m. PT, SportsNet LA), with Julio Urías starting the opener.