In the weeks leading up to the July 31 trade deadline, the Dodgers plan to focus on pitching. But they also plan to give Max Muncy a long look at second base, to see whether a guy who did not play an inning there in triple A this season might be an unlikely solution at the position.
Seven players have started at least one game this season for the Dodgers at second base, the most at any position. The Dodgers’ second basemen began play Sunday batting .201, and their .288 slugging percentage was the lowest in the major leagues.
Muncy is primarily a first baseman and third baseman. He started more games in the minor leagues in left field and right field than he did at second base. But, for now, the Dodgers are willing to let him learn defense on the job to keep a hot bat in the lineup.
Logan Forsythe, the nominal starter, will be limited to facing left-handers.
“With right-handers, I want to make sure Muncy’s bat is in there,” manager Dave Roberts said.
Muncy is batting .273 with 17 home runs and a 1.024 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, the highest of any National League player with at least 200 plate appearances.
Forsythe is batting .203, with two home runs and a .557 OPS. His slugging percentage has fallen from .444 in his last two seasons with the Tampa Bay Rays to .320 in his two seasons with the Dodgers.
When the Dodgers acquired him in January 2017, they installed him as their leadoff batter. In his first series with the Dodgers, he even batted third once. He has not batted in the top four in any start this season.
And, although he hit .290 with an .870 OPS against left-handers last season, he is batting .186 with a .526 OPS against them this season.
The Dodgers primarily have deployed Enrique Hernandez at shortstop and in the outfield, but Hernandez also could take time at second base from Forsythe if he continues to struggle against left-handers.
“Logan is in a tough spot,” Roberts said. “The way we do things, as far as having more depth and using more players, it’s an adjustment for him. He’s handling it very well, as far as his psyche. Production-wise, he’s still working through things mechanically, to adjust to a different kind of role.
“We know that there’s a lot more in there from Logan. He’ll get opportunities. But, right now, in the foreseeable future, it’s going to be more against left-handed pitching.”
Muncy’s emergence as a left-handed infield option has virtually extinguished Chase Utley’s chances to start. Utley is batting .225, with one home run and a .629 OPS.
“It’s a once-a-week thing, understanding his value is as a pinch-hitter, to give us a good at-bat off the bench,” Roberts said. “You still need to get starts to stay somewhat current.”
Utley is batting .188 as a starter and .421 as a pinch-hitter.
On Sunday, Muncy made his fifth start this season at second base. He started 19 games there for the Oakland Athletics in 2016.
“There have been a couple plays he hasn’t made and haven’t been clean,” Roberts said, “but I think, the more he plays, the more comfortable he will be.”
Puig of the day
Yasiel Puig provided the Dodgers with an insurance run in the eighth inning, when he scored from second base on an infield single.
Joc Pederson grounded to second base, and the Colorado Rockies’ DJ LeMahieu fell to the ground as he fielded the ball. Puig had stopped at third base but, as he saw LeMahieu lob a late throw to first baseman Ian Desmond, he took off. Desmond’s throw was hurried and tardy, and Puig dove safely home, then jumped up and pumped up the crowd.
“Don’t sleep at the wildhorse,” Puig tweeted, with a video of the play.
In the fifth inning, frustrated after hitting a line drive for the last out, Puig flipped his bat into the air ... and caught it.