Too many home runs? Long-ball reliance isn’t fazing Dodgers after series win

Max Muncy, center, celebrates with J.D. Martinez, left, and Freddie Freeman after hitting a two-run home run.
Max Muncy, center, celebrates with J.D. Martinez, left, and Freddie Freeman after hitting a two-run home run in the Dodgers’ 7-3 win over the Chicago Cubs.
(Jamie Sabau / Getty Images)

This hasn’t exactly been the offense the Dodgers had in mind.

The club might not have gone all-in on maximizing Major League Baseball’s new rules, designing a roster only partially suited to small-ball tactics such as stolen bases and slap hitting.

Still, one month into the season, the Dodgers also didn’t expect to be so home run reliant.


“When we put together this ballclub, we felt that the [batting] average, that the hit tool, was going to play a little bit more than it has and maybe kind of cut into the homers,” manager Dave Roberts said.

Max Muncy and James Outman each went deep twice, and the homer-happy Dodgers also received other offensive contributions in a 9-4 win over the Cubs.

April 22, 2023

Instead, this year’s team has become the king of the three true outcomes — balancing its high strikeout rates and spotty situational hitting with a bunch of much-needed big flies.

On Sunday, the Dodgers got just enough of the latter, bashing three home runs in a 7-3 win over the Chicago Cubs.

The victory got the Dodgers (12-11) back over .500 for the first time in a week. It marked their first set of consecutive wins in 17 days. And, in their most common recipe for success thus far at the plate, it was predicated once again on the long ball, with Mookie Betts, Max Muncy and J.D. Martinez all leaving the yard to give the Dodgers 43 homers in the first 23 games of the season.

“We have a lot of guys with good swings and when you’re able to put the barrel on the ball, good things will happen,” Muncy said. “That’s all we’re focused on doing. Just get the barrel to the ball.”

That’s what the veteran slugger did with his team facing a one-run deficit in the sixth inning Sunday, sending a two-run, go-ahead blast banging high off the right-field scoreboard.

Dodgers designated hitter J.D. Martinez celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the sixth inning Sunday.
(Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press)

Muncy leads the majors with 11 home runs, and has hit 10 of them in his last 13 games — dating to the reincorporation of a “step-back” move to his batting stance after an opening-week slump that was starting to impact his mechanics.

“I try not to pay too much attention to it, but it’s very rewarding,” Muncy said of his early home run total, which is more than one club — the last-place Washington Nationals — has as an entire team.

“It wasn’t the best start, obviously,” Muncy said. “But it’s one of those things where sometimes this game will tell you what needs to happen, and maybe it was telling me that I needed to make some changes. That’s what we did. And so far it’s been working.”

So far, the rest of the team has followed his lead.

Though the Dodgers rank 24th in batting average, 27th in steals and have more strikeouts than anyone else, they also lead the majors in walks, trail only the scorching Tampa Bay Rays in homers and rank top five in scoring and OPS.

“Obviously you don’t want to live and die by [the home run],” Betts said. “But right now it’s helping us stay afloat.”

Betts, who made his first career MLB start at shortstop Sunday because of the Dodgers’ lack of productive infield depth, hit the team’s first home run Sunday afternoon.


Down 2-0 after an opening-inning error by Muncy led to two unearned runs against Clayton Kershaw (who gave up only one more tally the rest of his six-inning start), Betts tied the score with a two-run drive in the third.

“I don’t know if we’re out there trying to hit homers, but they’re going over the fence,” said Betts, the Dodgers’ home run leader last year. “So we’ll take them as we can get them.”

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April 23, 2023

Martinez, who earned the nickname “Just Dingers” after consecutive 40-homer seasons earlier in his career, went back-to-back with Muncy in the sixth with his fourth homer of the season.

And if not for a two-run double in the top of the ninth from Betts — who also helped the Dodgers escape a bases-loaded jam in the bottom half of that frame by initiating a game-ending double-play — home runs would have been the Dodgers’ only method of run creation.

“I do think that the ability to hit for average is going to happen for our ballclub,” Roberts said.

Until then, however, the Dodgers will have to keep banking on a power surge, operating with a homer-happy offense that wasn’t by design.