Max Muncy announced his return to the Dodgers lineup with authority, delivering the culminating blow in two separate big innings to beat the White Sox 11-9 on Thursday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago.
Muncy missed two weeks with left elbow inflammation, the same elbow in which he suffered a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament last October. In Muncy’s first game back he was inserted into the cleanup spot — where he’s batted in nearly half (19) of his starts (40) this season — despite his .150/.327/.263 batting line, then spent the game justifying the decision.
Chicago jumped ahead 4-0 by the fourth inning, the same score by which the White Sox won the series opener. In doing so they not only snapped Tyler Anderson’s scoreless string at 28 innings, but also knocked him out after recording only nine outs.
Control was lacking on Thursday for Anderson, who walked three, matching his total for his previous seven starts. The left-hander was pulled down two runs with nobody out and the bases loaded in the fourth inning. Brusdar Graterol hit a batter but retired the next three hitters, but in doing so two of the inherited runners scored.
The Dodgers responded immediately, thanks to some help. With one out and two runners on in the fifth, third baseman Jake Burger booted a grounder from Austin Barnes, loading the bases. Mookie Betts then struck out, which could have ended the inning.
Freddie Freeman was the first to capitalize with a two-run double, halving the lead. Trea Turner beat out an infield hit to pull Los Angeles within a run. Up came Muncy, who had two extra-base hits in his last 19 games before landing on the injured list. Muncy doubled, giving the Dodgers their first lead, and a wild pitch later in the frame added another tally.
Dylan Cease, who was close to escaping with five scoreless innings, threw 45 pitches in the fifth alone, and he couldn’t finish the frame.
After Burger homered to cut the Dodgers’ lead to just one run, LA responded again in the sixth. Freeman singled home another run, then advanced to second base on a wild pitch. With two outs and a 1-2 count on Trea Turner, White Sox manager Tony LaRussa opted to intentionally walk him to get to Muncy.
The fan yelling “He had two strikes, Tony!” at the end of this clip of the White Sox broadcast summarized the situation nicely.
LaRussa got the matchup he wanted, with the left-handed Bennett Sousa facing the lefty Muncy. His at-bat also got to two strikes, and on the fifth pitch Muncy drove a ball the other way for his first home run since May 4.
That snapped a string of 80 straight plate appearances without a home run for Muncy, who drove in three runs in the 19 games in between home runs.
On Thursday, Muncy had five runs batted in.
Big innings have been the calling card for the Dodgers offense that leads the majors in runs scored per game (5.33 after Thursday). But those large rallies were few and far between recently, scoring more than two runs in an inning only twice in their previous twelve games.
On Thursday against the White Sox, the Dodgers had two such innings back-to-back. Twenty-three innings with at least four runs scored by the Dodgers is more than any other MLB team this season. In second place is San Francisco — with 19 such innings — where the Dodgers are headed next.
Six relievers followed Anderson, each pitching one inning. It wasn’t always pretty. Phil Bickford allowed a home run, and Alex Vesia walked two and allowed two runs in the eighth. Daniel Hudson had a four-run lead in the ninth, coughed up half of it, and allowed the tying runs to reach base with one out. But thanks to a foul popout by Yasmani Grandal and Gavin Sheets striking out, Hudson and the Dodgers were able to escape.
Hudson, who was pitching on his second straight day, threw a season-high 35 pitches on Thursday.
- Muncy’s five RBI matched a Dodgers season high this year. Betts drove in five on May 7 against the Cubs. Freeman drove in five on May 26 against the D-backs. All three five-RBI games were on the road.
- Gavin Lux hit an RBI double in the ninth for his first career four-hit game. He also walked, and scored twice. In June, Lux has 11 hits in 25 at-bats (.440).
- Freeman had three hits and drove in three runs.
Home runs: Max Muncy (4); Jake Burger (7)
WP — Brusdar Graterol (2-2): 1 IP, 1 HBP
LP — Dylan Cease (4-3): 4⅔ IP, 6 hits, 6 unearned runs, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts
The road trip heads to San Francisco for an always-compelling weekend series with the Giants. Walker Buehler starts the opener on Friday night (7:15 p.m., SportsNet LA), with right-hander Jakob Junis on the mound for the home team.