Max Muncy continues to shine in Dodgers’ 7-2 win over Braves
Max Muncy might never see Oklahoma City again, but he has two more months of rent to pay on an apartment there.
He and two teammates rented a place there in April. He played nine games in Oklahoma City, and the rest is history.
The rent is not. He still pays his share, lest Matt Beaty and Jake Peter have to further exhaust their minor league wages.
“I’m still helping those guys out,” Muncy said. “I told them I would make sure I cover my part. I don’t want to leave them hanging.”
He is helping out the Dodgers too, in mysterious and unfathomable ways. Even the most dedicated fan had scarcely heard of him when he arrived, and now no Dodgers player has more home runs this season.
Muncy hit another home run Sunday, in the Dodgers’ 7-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves. Enrique Hernandez and Logan Forsythe did too, and Ross Stripling rolled to his fifth consecutive victory.
The Dodgers are 7-2 this month and have won 17 of their last 23 games. The three home runs gave the Dodgers 26 in nine games this month, one more than they hit in 28 games over the first month of the season.
Forsythe hit the unlikeliest home run, given that he hit it on the first pitch. He takes the first pitch more often than any other player in the league, and the Dodgers have advised him that the word is out, and that too many of his at-bats are starting with an 0-and-1 count.
Stripling is 5-1 with a 1.65 earned-run average, the second-lowest of any National League pitcher with at least 50 innings.
He has won each of his last five starts, lasting at least six innings all but once, with two walks and 41 strikeouts in that span.
“I’ve always prided myself on being someone that doesn’t walk people,” Stripling said. “When you have a good run going, you just get more confident and you trust your stuff and continue to pump strikes.”
Stripling gave up home runs to Ozzie Albies and Freddie Freeman in the fourth inning, the first time this season he has given up two home runs in a game. He rebounded to retire the final nine batters he faced.
In all, he gave up two runs, four hits and no walks in six innings. He also singled, executed a sacrifice bunt and even stole his first career base.
“He had a complete game,” Roberts said.
Muncy is this year’s Chris Taylor, the career minor leaguer who had failed in previous major league trials elsewhere.
“Very good parallel,” Roberts said. “What we expected from them, their production, how they have assimilated with our team, and the lift they have given us — very, very comparable.”
Taylor, a career shortstop, made himself at home in center field for the Dodgers last year, then moved back to shortstop this year when Corey Seager suffered a season-ending injury.
In his two months with the Dodgers, Muncy has advanced from useful to indispensable.
He has made it possible for the Dodgers to rest third baseman Justin Turner, and to try first baseman Cody Bellinger in center field when Taylor moved to shortstop. The Dodgers have worked out Muncy at second base and could try him there when Turner returns.
“It’s not something that is new to me,” Muncy said. “I’d say I’m ready for it.”
Muncy has 12 home runs in 44 games with the Dodgers, the same number of home runs he hit in 109 games last year at Oklahoma City.
He has reached base in seven of his last eight appearances, on two home runs and five walks. No NL player with as many at-bats has a better on-base-plus-slugging percentage than Muncy’s 1.011.
He could say this is what he knew he could do if given the chance, but he won’t. The Oakland Athletics gave him 102 at-bats in 2015, and 113 at-bats in 2016.
“When I was in Oakland, they did give me a little bit of a chance,” he said. “I wasn’t quite the same player, mentally. The swing wasn’t really the same, either.
“Right now, I’m seeing the rewards of putting in hard work, and seeing what that does.”
That is true for Stripling as well. He could be on the NL All-Star pitching staff, perhaps alongside his Texas A&M roommate, Michael Wacha of the St. Louis Cardinals.
“It would be like a college dream come true,” Stripling said. “It would be like a reunion.”
Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin
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