Max Muncy took one significant step forward with an RBI single in the fourth inning and a two-run double in the seventh inning of the Dodgers’ 12-5 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Friday night, but the infielder may have taken another step back when he broke out of the box on his last hit.
Muncy, who was playing in his sixth game since returning from a right-wrist fracture last week, suffered a minor quadriceps injury and was pulled from the game to start the eighth.
“There were a lot of good things that came from Max tonight,” manager Dave Roberts said, “but he had a little quad tightness coming out of the box. We’ll assess him [Saturday] and see if he can play.”
Muncy injured his wrist when San Diego pitcher Matt Strahm plunked him with a 94-mph fastball on Aug. 29, an injury that sidelined him for two weeks.
Muncy returned on Sept. 13. His first five games came against hard-throwing New York Mets right-handers Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom and Zack Wheeler and a deep Tampa Bay staff that entered Friday with a 3.66 ERA, second-best in the American League.
Muncy, who hit .253 with an .899 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, 33 homers and 87 RBIs in 129 games before the injury, went two for 20 (.100) with two RBIs in the five games, striking out eight times and walking twice.
“Coming back and facing three of the best pitchers in the league to start — that kind of crushes your confidence a bit right there,” Muncy said before the game. “And then you face one of the best pitching staffs in baseball in the Rays. I’ve been feeling OK. It just hasn’t been the easiest teams to be coming back against.”
The degree of difficulty seemed to ease Friday night. Starting for the Rockies was 22-year-old right-hander Peter Lambert, the San Dimas High School product who entered with a 3-6 record and 6.98 ERA in 19 starts and was rocked for six runs and eight hits in 1 2/3 innings of a 16-9 loss to the Dodgers on Sept. 2.
The left-handed-hitting Muncy struck out swinging through an 87-mph changeup in the first inning and struck out looking at Lambert’s 93-mph fastball on the outside corner in the third.
But against left-handed reliever Sam Howard in the fourth, Muncy punched an RBI single field to right to give the Dodgers a 5-4 lead, part of a seven-run, five-hit inning that broke open the game. And against left-hander Phillip Diehl in the seventh, Muncy drove a two-run double to left-center field to cap a four-run rally.
“He got some pitches out over the plate and used the big part of the field, which was good to see,” Roberts said. “A lot of times, for that left-handed hitter to face a lefty and to go the other way, that gets them on track. When you face a lefty it forces you to stay on the baseball a little bit more.
“With the left-handed breaking ball going away from you, you can get exposed more, so the lefty facing the lefty, you have to stay in there more, and if you look at those swings tonight, he did that.”
Muncy said before the game that the strength in the wrist has returned, but he’s having some trouble getting comfortable in the batter’s box.
“I’m getting there,” he said. “I just have to keep working and trying to make sure I’m healthy.”
With eight games left before the playoffs, Muncy believes he’ll have enough time to find his swing, though his at-bats could be somewhat limited because of his quadriceps injury.
“I haven’t felt like there’s anything holding me back swing-wise — there isn’t anything tampering with my swing as far as the wrist goes,” Muncy said. “Everything feels good. It’s just getting back into a rhythm.”