/Associated Press/Associated Press"The first
week-and-a-half Keith
Hernandez Jersey
, two weeks of spring training, I don't know if he
made an out," Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner says. "It's been fun to watch.
Fun to watch him absolutely dominate the strike zone."Muncy did not break camp
with the Dodgers but was summoned from, yes, Oklahoma City on April 17 after
infielder Logan Forsythe injured his shoulder. In his first game, in San Diego,
Muncy cracked a pinch-hit single. In his second at-bat the next day, Muncy
ripped a home run off the Padres' Luis Perdomo."I don't think he's stopped
since," Dodgers outfielder and first baseman Cody Bellinger says. "Quality
at-bats, day in and day out."As he rakes, his teammates have moved from
intrigued and wowed to wholly appreciative. Not simply of Muncy's emergence, but
also of an organization that continues to dominate the secondhand market the way
Muncy dominates the strike zone.This is the third time that a reclamation
project has blossomed into a prime-time player in Los Angeles in recent seasons.
The Dodgers plucked Turner off the scrap heap in 2014 after the New York Mets
released him, and he went on to hit .294 with 16 homers and 60 RBI in 2015. They
traded with the Seattle Mariners for infielder Chris Taylor in 2016, and he went
on to hit .288 with 21 homers and 72 RBI last year.Justin Turner says the
Dodgers welcome reclamation projects like Max Muncy.Gregory Bull/Associated
Press/Associated PressNow, Muncy."It's a good thing that, compared to other
teams, we know how to find talent," closer Kenley Jansen says. "It shows you why
they talk about the depth we have in this organization."Says Turner: "I think
it's a product of the culture we have around here, the environment. The way
everyone is treated. I've been on teams where there is an obvious separation
between the veterans and the young guys. That doesn't exist here. When someone
comes up, we see him helping us win ballgames. We see it with Muncy now; we saw
it with Belly [Bellinger] last year."Always, Muncy has known his way around the
strike zone. Dodgers starter Ross Stripling faced him in high school (Stripling
pitched for Carroll High in Southlake, Texas) and in college (Muncy played at
Baylor, Stripling at Texas AM). Though they didn't get to know each other until
both became Dodgers Jorge
De La Rosa Jersey
, Stripling certainly knew enough of Muncy to try
to avoid him when they were in school."He's always been a guy who absolutely
commands the zone," Stripling says. "If you throw it over the middle of the
plate, he's going to whack it. He's always been that guy. My two losses against
Baylor were basically his fault. I think he hit a game-winning single and a
game-winning sacrifice fly off of me my junior and senior years."Stipling says
he thinks Muncy struggled with the A's because he wasn't getting consistent
playing time: "He was playing all over the place and was having a hard time
finding a routine. Over here, he got in the big leagues and got a chance to show
what he could do everyday, which is command the zone, get on base and hit for
slug [slugging percentage] when pitchers make mistakes."Muncy says his hitting
coach in Oklahoma City, Shawn Wooten, and his father helped him fine-tune not
only his approach at the plate, but also his mental game during the difficult
times in 2017. After his release from Oakland and before the Dodgers signed him,
Muncy and his agent even investigated professional opportunities in Japan and
South Korea."It's been a whirlwind of emotions, a whirlwind of talks, not
knowing if I was ever going to play baseball again,"Muncysays."Was a team going
to give me a chance? Was I ever going to make it back to the major leagues? Was
I going to be a career minor leaguer? You never know. There are not really words
for me to describe it other than crazy and unbelievable."Lee Muncy says he
thinks the turbocharge that boosted his son into this new stage of his career is
confidence born of desperation."I think when they released him he realized, 'I
can't be conservative. I have to be more aggressive and sure of myself,'" Lee
says.Max agrees, and as he speaks, the metaphorical odometer counting the miles
between him and that Oklahoma City Sheraton continues to practically do
cartwheels, the distance traveled so mind-blowing. Take the Home Run Derby, for
instance."Incredible experience," Muncy says. "It was something very special to
me, especially having my dad there. Growing up, it was something my dad and I
always watched together. Obviously, you had the All-Star Game ,
but we always thought the Derby was the coolest thing to watch, and having him
there was very cool."Max Muncy crushes a pitch in the Home Run Derby.Patrick
Semansky/Associated PressAs Lee, a geologist in the international oil and gas
industry, sat watching the Derby, there was this, too: So far, the family has
made one journey to Los Angeles this season to watch Max. It came during the
first Dodgers homestand after he was called up to the majors. In town that late
April weekend were the Washington Nationals.Now, here he sat as the Home Run
Derby unfolded鈥n Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.Forget the past year. Simply
from April to now, who could have conjured up this?"You know what?" Midge says.
"We've learned to just go with it.""Unbelievable," Lee says. "It really is a
surreal situation. Happy, surprised, wonderful."Then, after the Derby, Max
disappeared with his family to their vacation home in the Finger Lakes, and next
thing he knew, not only were the Dodgers acquiring superstar Manny Machado, but
everyone was speculating on whether Max would be asked to give up his No. 13,
which had been Machado's jersey number with the Baltimore Orioles."I was never
asked. I was never told anything about it. I just know I was at our family
lakehouse, found out we got Machado, and we were all excited," Muncy says. "Me
and my family were talking about how he probably would want that number, and
what number would you go with now?"I didn't know what was available Jarrod
Dyson Jersey
, what numbers can I get. So I started thinking about
it, but I never received any calls, texts, emails ... then I showed up in
Milwaukee and everyone said he had chosen No. 8. I was fully prepared to give up
No. 13."Max Muncy and the other Dodgers infielders confer during a pitching
change.Dylan Buell/Getty ImagesInstead, as he solidifies his MLB resume one home
run at a time, maybe this simply is the latest indicator that in his seventh
professional season鈥ith his second organization鈥s he bounces around the
infield from third base to second base to first base, even playing some outfield
as well鈥aybe Maxwell Steven Muncyhas finallymade it.Dare he feel that way?"I
should have had a moment like that," he says. "But I think because of how crazy
this year has been, I still haven't."He thinks for a minute鈥攁nother strike zone
to conquer tonight, a Los Angeles stretch run close enough to reach out and
touch, the Oklahoma City Sheraton still there but fading in his rear-view
mirror."Probably," he continues, "that's helping me out in not getting content
with where I'm at."Scott Miller covers Major League Baseball as a national
columnist for Bleacher Report. Follow Scott on Twitter and talk baseball. SAN
FRANCISCO (AP) — The Los Angeles Dodgers want no part of a wild-card game or the
long flight that would come with it.The plan: another NL West crown.Max Muncy
and his free-swinging Dodgers mates are headed for a one-game showdown against
Colorado to determine the division winner back home, jumping on the San
Francisco Giants from the start Sunday in a 15-0 win for a weekend sweep.The
Rockies routed Washington 12-0 at Coors Field, setting up a tiebreaker at Dodger
Stadium on Monday that the home team has every intention of taking. The winner
gets the division and hosts Atlanta in the best-of-five Division Series starting
Thursday; the loser is on the road for the NL wild-card game Tuesday against the
loser of Monday’s Brewers-Cubs NL Central tiebreaker.“We’d rather win the
division than be the wild card,” Matt Kemp said. “We’re going to play it like
any game we’ve been playing this last month. We’ve been playing each game like a
playoff game. We’ve got to keep it going. I don’t think we want to go to the
East Coast to play a one-game playoff, we’d rather have a series to play and
play that series.”Walker Buehler will start for the Dodgers (91-71) as the
defending NL champions try for a sixth straight West title.Rich Hill (11-5)
pitched two-hit ball for seven innings to keep the playoff-bound Dodgers on a
roll. The lefty found out when he woke up just before 8 a.m. Sunday he would
start, having gone to bed early for him to ensure enough sleep for the
possibility he would be pitching.“The biggest thing is that everybody continues
to go up there and give that effort, no matter what the situation is,” Hill
said.Manny Machado, Kemp and Muncy all joined the hit parade as Los Angeles left
nothing to chance in Game No. 162. Kemp had a two-run double and RBI single
among his three hits, while Muncy and Brian Dozier each hit two-run homers.Los
Angeles followed up an 18-hit performance Saturday with 16 more to finish with
43 in the three-game series.Now, on to game No. 163.“It’s a game where obviously
it’s not do-or-die ttp:// ,
but I think that it’s a must-win game,” manager Dave Roberts said. “To win the
game and get a couple days off, to host the division series is very
important.”Chris Taylor drew a walk from Andrew Suarez (7-13) to get the Dodgers
going Sunday, Justin Turner followed with an RBI double and the rout was on.
Dozier’s drive and a two-run double by Kemp highlighted a seven-run third
inning.The Dodgers clinched baseball’s final playoff berth by beating the Giants
10-6 on Saturday and celebrated with champagne in the visiting clubhouse — then
all attention turned to winning another division title.So Roberts switched from
Buehler to Hill (11-5), who delivered. He completed a 5-0 September and won for
the sixth time in seven outings beginning Aug. 24. The lefty retired the first
10 batters in order before Joe Panik’s single in the fourth.Hill’s curveball has
been clicking in recent weeks since he tweaked his delivery with a grip
adjustment.“In recent memory, this is as good as I’ve seen him throw the
baseball,” Roberts said. “… He understood how important this game was.”Los
Angeles needed a stellar showing in its final series.The Dodgers fell out of the
division lead with a 7-2 loss Wednesday at Arizona before taking all three from
the injury-plagued Giants (73-89) to close out the final weekend of the regular
season. A sixth straight division title by the Dodgers would be the
third-longest streak since divisions started in 1969 behind Atlanta’s 14
consecutive from 1991-2005 and nine in a row by the Yankees from 1998-2006.San
Francisco went a majors-worst 5-21 in September but improved on its last-place
2017 finish of 64-98 by nine wins.“No question that’s the last way we wanted
this thing to go out,” manager Bruce Bochy said.SPLISH SPLASHMuncy’s pinch-hit
homer gave him 34 for the season and the drive splashed into McCovey Cove beyond
the right-field arcade. That marked the 44th splash homer by a Giants opponent,
fifth by a Dodger and first by an LA player since Cody Bellinger on Sept. 13,
2017.PENCE’S FAREWELL?Hunter Pence went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts in what
was likely his final game with the Giants after 6 1/2 years. There were pins and
signs reading “GR8FUL.”Pence received big cheers from the sellout crowd as he
ran to the outfield some 20 minutes before first pitch and he waved and clapped
in appreciation.Then out in AT&T Park’s vast right field for perhaps the
final time in a Giants uniform, he tipped his cap every direction to the rousing
ovation. He did the same with his batting helmet before stepping in to lead off
the bottom of the first.A Pence highlight video showed before the bottom of the
ninth.“Pure joy. I really just feel a tremendous amount of joy for this
organization, these fans, the stadium,” Pence said. “It’s been just unbelievable
to play here. You never know, I could come back … but it is unknown and it
really was just amazing.”FINAL ATTENDANCEWhile the Giants drew 3 million fans
for a ninth straight season and 17th time in the ballpark’s 19-year history, the
3,156,185 attendance was their lowest since 3,037,443 in 2010.
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