In addition to leading the Los Angeles Dodgers with 35 home runs last season, Max Muncy was one of the team’s most disciplined hitters. His ability to keep within the strike zone had manager Dave Roberts confident Muncy would replicate the success from a breakout 2018 campaign.
While there was a stretch where Muncy scuttled, he’s largely been a steady force in the Dodgers lineup. Muncy delivered yet again on Sunday, hitting a solo home run in the second inning and walk-off, two-run double in the ninth.
His frozen rope into right field came on the eighth pitch he saw from San Diego Padres closer Kirby Yates. The right-hander has suffered three losses this season — with each coming at the hands of the Dodgers.
“We’ve seen him very dominant, he’s had a tremendous year, but just didn’t seem as sharp and have the command he typically does,” manager Dave Roberts said after his club’s win. “As the at-bat gets deeper then the advantage certainly goes to the hitter.”
Muncy fell behind in the count 1-2 before working it full on the fourth and fifth pitches. The at-bat appeared to entail some gamesmanship, as Muncy stepped out of the batter’s box on multiple occasions.
Though, there was also the factor of Yates seemingly struggling to sync up with young catcher Francisco Mejía. Yates stepped off the rubber and had a mound visit with Mejía and infielders.
“It didn’t seem like they had the same set of signs, or they couldn’t get on the same page,” Muncy noted. “(But) I think when you have a guy like Kirby Yates, that doesn’t necessarily work to your advantage even if they’re not on the same page, because he’s still just as nasty.
“Maybe it kind of froze him a little bit. It seemed like he was kind of taking a long time. In the end he’s still just as good. … He’s got a lot of wicked movement, he’s got a different arm slot. He’s got regular motion but his arm slot is almost down, below his chest.
“The splitter is one of the best pitches in the game. When you put all those things together it just makes him really difficult. If you look at the year he’s been having he’s put them to good use.”
Muncy’s game-winning hit came on a fastball that was left over the heart of the plate. It was his first walk-off in the regular season and second of his career when factoring in the postseason.
Muncy memorably ended Game 3 of the 2018 World Series with a walk-off home run in the 18th inning.