Max Muncy’s hitting surge continues, but misplays prove costly as Dodgers fall in extras

Toronto Blue Jays' Daulton Varsho celebrates after driving in two runs with a bases-loaded double.
Toronto Blue Jays’ Daulton Varsho celebrates after driving in two runs with a bases-loaded double in the 11th inning.
(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Chris Taylor sailed a throw too high. Jason Heyward tried to slide too low.

In the top of the 11th inning Monday, misplays by both Dodgers defenders proved costly, leading to the deciding runs in the team’s 6-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays.

In a back-and-forth affair highlighted by a two-hit performance from Max Muncy — who forced extra innings with a home run in the bottom of the eighth — it was his replacement at third base, Taylor, who started the snowball rolling in the 11th.


Matt Chapman began the frame with a seemingly harmless ground ball to third. Taylor, however, air-mailed a throw across the diamond, pulling Freddie Freeman off the first base bag for a leadoff error.

“I thought the inning would have been different had he made the play,” manager Dave Roberts said.

Instead, after a single from Whit Merrifield loaded the bases, Daulton Varsho roped a line drive to right field that Heyward couldn’t corral.

The veteran outfielder tried to make a diving stop on the sinking one-hopper, going all-in on what he and Roberts described as a do-or-die play.

“You have to go for it,” Heyward said. “You can’t leave it to chance.”

Once the ball got by him, though, two runs easily scored for the Blue Jays, who tacked on a third later in the inning against reliever Phil Bickford.

“He just couldn’t come up with it,” Roberts said of Heyward’s dive. “But that’s not the reason why we didn’t win.”


Up to that point, it appeared Muncy would help lead a late-game Dodgers comeback.

With the team trailing 3-2 in the eighth, Muncy turned on a hanging changeup for his 25th home run of the season and fourth in his last five games.

Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman indicated that the team will be “aggressive” in pursuit of a big arm before the trade deadline.

July 24, 2023

Where the slugger was once throwing his arms aloft in frustration, seemingly unable to get a hit for stretches earlier this season, his increased confidence surfaced in celebration, admiring his long ball while twirling his bat away.

For Muncy, who also opened the scoring with a first-inning single, it was another sign of optimism amid a recent offensive resurgence. In his last five games, he is eight for 31 with 11 RBIs. For the first time since June 8, his season batting average is back over .200, rising 14 points from a season-low of .187 on July 18.

“That’s kind of the guy that I know he can be,” Roberts said.

It’s certainly closer to the form Muncy was struggling to find prior to the All-Star break, when not only did he acknowledge frustration with his performance, but Roberts also declared, “I just don’t see a world where he’s a .190 hitter … I just think he’s a better hitter than he’s shown.”

For the time being, Muncy is finally making good on that promise.

Unfortunately for the Dodgers (57-42), on Monday it still wasn’t enough.

After jumping to an early 2-0 lead — Heyward added a solo homer in the fourth — the Blue Jays (56-45) tagged starter Michael Grove with two runs in the fifth, ending his night early despite six strikeouts (five of which came on the slider).

“I think if you look at the pitchers, the guys that are kind of trying to continue to develop as far as you experience, Michael is right there at the top of the list,” Roberts said. “I think the conviction he has with his slider, his cutter to the lefties has been very good. The strike throwing has been really good. So absolutely. He put us in a position to win the game.”


There was an unusual subplot to Grove’s outing. Between the fourth and fifth innings, he changed pants in the clubhouse after the Blue Jays requested umpires inspect a brown spot on the side of his right leg.

Grove said the splotch was just where he rubs his hand between pitches. Roberts didn’t believe there was an ultimatum made to the rookie right-hander, but he acquiesced to the umpires’ request anyway.

The Dodgers have parted with top prospects to acquire big-name players at the trade deadlines in the past. They could do the same this season.

July 25, 2023

“I told him I didn’t want to be a problem,” Grove said. “So I just came in and changed my pants.”

The score remained tied until the top of the eighth, when Matt Chapman hammered a solo home run off Brusdar Graterol.

While that 3-2 lead lasted for all of 10 minutes, the Dodgers couldn’t edge their way back in front.

They left the bases loaded later in the eighth, went down in order in the ninth, then stranded their automatic baserunner in the 10th — setting the stage for the 11th-inning meltdown from which they couldn’t recover.