Max Muncy’s walk-off double lifts Dodgers over Padres in slugfest
Alex Verdugo had simple advice for Dodgers fans.
“Don’t leave early.”
Not even when, as was the case Sunday, the Dodgers’ starter allows five runs in 2⅔ innings, the bullpen gives up five more and blows a seventh-inning lead, and the team is trailing by three in the eighth and one in the ninth.
Because, in their home park at least, the resilient Dodgers seem to always overcome.
“We’re never out of it,” Verdugo said, adding, “We can go and do something special at any given moment.”
On Sunday, the Dodgers claimed their ninth walk-off win of the season in an 11-10 triumph over the San Diego Padresat Dodger Stadium, a long and unpredictable game with the most predictable of finishes.
It took eight pitches and the better part of 10 minutes before Max Muncy hit a one-out double down the line in the ninth, lining the ball into the right-field corner to score the tying run from second and winning run from first.
“We have a lot of confidence,” Muncy said. “That’s just the makeup of this team.”
The Dodgers did not acquire a standout reliever at the trade deadline, leaving rookies Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May as candidates for the postseason bullpen.
The Dodgers, who improved to 74-40 overall and 43-15 at home, trailed for most of the afternoon. Starter Kenta Maeda gave up five runs in the third inning, including a two-out grand slam by Eric Hosmer. The Dodgers’ bullpen, facing its first real test since an underwhelming trade deadline, was uneven over the final six innings.
At the plate, Los Angeles saw an eighth-inning rally stifled when A.J. Pollock, the potential tying run, was thrown out at home on a grounder to shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. Joc Pederson led off the ninth with a double, only to get thrown out trying to advance to third on a groundball to Hosmer, the Padres first baseman, who made a splendid throw across the diamond instead of taking the easy out at first.
Yet, the Dodgers weren’t deterred.
With one out, Corey Seager’s double-play ball was booted by second baseman Luis Urias. That set the stage for Muncy, who had already collected a home run, double and single. Padres closer Kirby Yates got ahead in a 1-and-2 count but didn’t appear to be on the same page as catcher Francisco Mejia. In the middle of the at-bat, they had a lengthy mound visit.
“He just didn’t seem as sharp or have the command he typically does,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of Yates. “As the at-bat gets deeper, the advantage certainly goes to the hitter.”
Muncy stayed patient. He worked the count full, then fouled off two splitters buried near the inside corner. Finally, Yates gave him something to hit. Muncy turned on a fastball at the knees and watched Seager motor all the way home for the winning run.
“[Muncy] just has a great way of staying in the strike zone, got a pitch he could handle,” Roberts said. “Corey, first to third scoring right there, that was big. Just a well-played game on the offensive side, on the defensive side.”
On the mound, however, it was a different story.
Maeda’s third-inning implosion negated an early 3-0 lead. Yimi Garcia surrendered a solo home run in the fourth. Julio Urias allowed two runs in the seventh — one was unearned because of his throwing error -– to blow a 7-6 lead. JT Chargois gave up two runs in the eighth.
Adam Kolarek (who made his Dodgers debut), Joe Kelly and Pedro Baez (6-2) were all blameless out of the bullpen. But the team’s soft underbelly of middle relievers, which only received minor reinforcements at the deadline, struggled to bridge the gap.
More late heroics were required to save the day.
“You always want to put pressure on people,” said Seager, who beat an off-target relay throw with ease on the final play. “You want to make them make the play. It worked out in our favor.”
By now, the walk-off celebration is a practiced art in Chavez Ravine. The only thing missing Sunday: No one drenched Muncy with a Gatorade bath.
“I totally forgot,” laughed Verdugo, who usually handles that unofficial role. “I thought somebody would have stepped up. But now I know. I’m there.”
He’d be smart to keep that in mind. Chances are, he might be called upon in another walk-off pileup before the season is through.
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