Dave Roberts gave a slumping Cody Bellinger a day off last week and he responded with home runs in the next two games. After a scheduled day off, the Dodgers manager dropped a slumping Max Muncy to sixth in Friday night’s lineup looking for a similar payoff.
The payoff was Muncy’s fourth home run of the season leading off the bottom of the fourth inning in a 7-2 win over the Giants.
“Max hasn’t been seeing the baseball well, so you give him a different look,” Roberts said of Muncy, who entered Friday in a 1-for-22 funk with a slashline of .176/.333/.392, dramatically below his career .241/.363/.497.
“I like the way he’s still taking walks. And there’s still some slug in there. I think that when Max goes right-center to left-center, he’s a considerably better hitter. I think he’s getting a heavy dose, starting in Arizona, of breaking balls and [he’s] releasing the barrel and putting it on the ground.
“So I think he’s working real hard and he’ll get through it. It’s just giving him a different look and letting the game come to him a bit. I expect guys to be on base tonight and for him to come through.”
Roberts said he wants to keep Muncy on the right side of the infield, bouncing between first base and second base defensively. Edwin Ríos -- whom Roberts called the most improved player on the team since last year -- has improved his defense at third base enough to allow his dangerous bat to slide into the lineup to give Justin Turner a start at designated hitter without moving Muncy to third base.
Ríos paid off as well with an eighth-inning home run, giving him three in 16 at-bats this year and seven in 63 career at-bats.
“He's done a great job of leaning out with his body while maintaining strength,” Roberts said of Ríos. “The footwork, much more agile, the lateral movement, the hand and glovework has improved a couple grades for me. Lastly, the arm strength and accuracy has improved. Look back from Spring Training to now, he’s probably the most overall improved player we have and I’m really proud of Eddie.”
• With three other left-handed relievers (Scott Alexander, Caleb Ferguson and Jake McGee) who are effective against right-handed hitters, Roberts said Adam Kolarek was mostly a victim of numbers when he and rookie Zach McKinstry were optioned on Thursday as the club reduced from 30 players to 28.
“Adam is a guy that’s gotten really big outs for us, especially in the postseason last year. To make that decision was really difficult,” he said. “We certainly see his value and love everything about him, but having the guys that do get both has given us a little bit of runway.”
Roberts also said in an attempt to make Kolarek more effective against right-handed hitters, he was asked to raise his arm slot against them. But Roberts said that inadvertently diminished his command when he threw sidearm against left-handed hitters. So Kolarek will go back to throwing sidearm against all hitters.