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Max Muncy, Dodgers rout Pirates to sweep series

Dodgers' Max Muncy celebrates his three-run home run with AJ Pollock.
Dodgers’ Max Muncy, center, celebrates his three-run home run with AJ Pollock during the fourth inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

The chant was so weak that, at first, it seemed almost like a question.

In first baseman Max Muncy’s initial at-bat in Wednesday’s game against the Pittsburgh Pirates, between pitches, a faint few smatterings of “M-V-P” rang out amid a packed Dodger Stadium crowd.

Perhaps the lack of conviction was due to San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. and his 34 home runs this season. Perhaps it was due to the stretch run that Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper is having. Perhaps it was the fact that Muncy had cooled off ever-so-slightly since the All-Star break.

But after the Dodgers slugger rounded the bases for the second time in just the fourth inning for his fifth home run in the last four games, pulling him within mere percentage points of Harper for the National League lead in OPS the fans’ earlier meek cries turned into a loud endorsement.

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“MUN-CY!” “MUN-CY!” “MUN-CY!”

“It’s good, it’s great,” manager Dave Roberts said of hearing the MVP chants. “Whenever fans recognize you have a potential MVP, you’ve got to be doing something right.”

His two home runs and five RBIs powered
the Dodgers to a 9-0 win — and, potentially, himself a fighting chance in the wide-open NL most valuable player race.

Aided by Muncy’s bat and bountiful contributions from the top of the lineup, the Dodgers wasted no time jumping on Pirates starter J.T. Brubaker.

He pitches 7.1 shutout innings as Dodgers win all three games of series with Pittsburgh.

In the top of the first, leadoff hitter AJ Pollock — hitting a hop, skip and a jump away from .400 since the All-Star break — singled to begin the Dodgers’ attack. Muncy then drove a 2-1 sinker into the left-field bleachers for a two-run opposite-field homer.

With a 2-0 lead and no outs, the Dodgers weren’t done. Justin Turner hit a screamer of a double down the third-base line, and Corey Seager followed on the next pitch with an RBI single to right field to add another run to the scoreboard.

When the dust settled, each of the Dodgers’ first four hitters had led off the game with a hit.

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In the bottom of the fourth, after a walk from pitcher Mitch White and another single from Pollock — the outfielder’s third hit of the game after a solo homer in the second inning — Muncy stepped to the plate again with a four-run advantage.

Clearly unsatisfied with the margin, he took a 3-2 pitch deep to right field for a three-run shot that extended the Dodgers’ lead to seven, sending Dodger Stadium into a frenzy.

The early cushion of run support would’ve been a boon for any pitching staff. But with a Dodgers group that’s particularly stretched thin with injuries, it gave opener Justin Bruihl and reliever White room to work that they took in stride.

Hours before the first pitch, the Dodgers starter still stood as TBD.

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Dodgers relief pitcher Mitch White throws to a Pittsburgh Pirates batter.
Dodgers relief pitcher Mitch White throws to a Pittsburgh Pirates batter during the second inning on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

“You know what,” Roberts said after Tuesday’s game of the next day’s pitching plan, “we’re not totally sure yet.”

The only thing Roberts was sure of was that the 26-year-old White, who’d thrown 31 innings at the major league level, would handle “the bulk of the game” as either a starter or as a reliever after an opener. The team was committed to a pitching carousel.

Well, it was a jolly merry-go-round as Bruihl made efficient work of the Pirates in 12/3 innings to begin the evening before turning it over to White, who shut out Pittsburgh the rest of the way.

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Roberts expressed confidence in White before the game, noting his success in attacking the zone more frequently with his fastball, changeup and curveball.

“This has been a really good growth year for Mitchell,” the manager said. “To see him pick us up at various times has been fun.”

L.A. County’s new mask order would also affect the Rose Bowl, L.A. Coliseum and other venues, and reflects the higher COVID risk of the Delta variant.

He continued to hoist the Dodgers in this game, mowing down Pittsburgh for over two innings before finally giving up a hit in the top of the fifth.

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“He was fantastic,” Roberts said. “This is something that he’s going to remember for a long time.”

A beautifully painted outside curveball to strike out Pirates second baseman Wilmer Difo — White’s first batter of the game — and end the bottom of the second set the tone for his evening. The reliever notched the longest appearance of his young career with 71/3 innings of shutout work.

White had been checking in with pitching coach Mark Prior throughout the game, he said. Before the ninth inning, Prior asked him if he wanted to finish the game.

“Let’s do it,” White responded.


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