WASHINGTON -- Max Muncy won’t be starting at first base for the National League at the All-Star Game, so the slugger will have to settle with being a huge part of the Dodgers’ success.
Muncy continued his monster season, launching a tiebreaking grand slam in the fifth inning of the Dodgers’ 6-2 win over the Nationals in a rain-shortened, five-inning game on Thursday at Nationals Park. It was the second career regular-season grand slam for Muncy, who leads the club with 18 homers. He has homered in four of his last five games.
After getting no-hit against the Cubs last Thursday, the Dodgers have responded with six consecutive wins and have looked sharp in the process.
“We’ve just got to go out there and prepare each day to win a baseball game, and the last six in a row we’ve won,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “So, I like our chances tomorrow. We’ve got [Max] Scherzer, who’s going to be tough, but we got some good mojo going.”
The Dodgers certainly used that good mojo to their advantage on Thursday. With heavy rain in the forecast, the Dodgers knew there was some sense of urgency in the first couple of innings. Nationals left-hander Patrick Corbin responded by shutting down the Dodgers lineup through three innings. That all changed in the fifth.
AJ Pollock tied the game at two with a solo homer off Corbin. Then, the Dodgers continued to apply the pressure on Corbin, loading the bases for Muncy. And as he has done all season, he delivered, launching the seventh grand slam of the season for the Dodgers, which tied the Braves for the league lead.
“We knew there was a storm coming in,” Muncy said. “You know, there was a little urgency in the dugout, but we were mostly just trying to play our game, trying to go out there and put good at-bats together and thankfully the timing was right on that.”
Muncy’s homer was enough run support for a Dodgers pitching plan that changed less than two hours before first pitch. With the threat of rain on their mind, the Dodgers opted to start Victor González as an opener, as opposed to going with Tony Gonsolin, who was the scheduled starter. González allowed a run in the first, forcing the Dodgers to go with Phil Bickford, who struck out the only man he faced.
Gonsolin came into the game in the second and remained limited as he continues to monitor a sore shoulder. The right-hander allowed one run and struck out four over three innings. Garrett Cleavinger pitched a scoreless fifth, which made the game official.
The Dodgers were theoretically going with a bullpen game on Thursday and the rain-shortened game worked in their favor.
“I felt that starting Victor in that first inning, we liked the matchups,” Roberts said. “Obviously, it didn't work out in the sense that they scored a run in the bottom half. But with Tony, I thought he just didn't have a feel for the split-change tonight. Got some outs when he needed to, but just wasn’t very sharp. But for him to take down some outs was big for us.”
The Dodgers are at the halfway point of their season and are sitting in a good spot at 50-31, putting them on a 100-win pace. Los Angeles has gotten outstanding production from its starting pitching staff, which was expected to be a strength entering this season. Kenley Jansen and Blake Treinen have been superb out of the bullpen, but the Dodgers are going to need another reliever to step up, especially with González struggling with his command.
Offensively, the Dodgers have one of the deepest lineups in the Majors, but they’ll have to be a little more consistent. They’ve shown signs of that lately, with Muncy leading the charge. They also expect to get shortstop Corey Seager back in the lineup at some point after the All-Star break.
The first 81 games of the season haven’t been the smoothest for the Dodgers, but they feel their best is yet to come. Now it’s time to prove it for 81 more games.
“We’re still waiting for some better results to happen,” Muncy said. “I don’t think this team has gotten anywhere close to its full potential. When we do finally get there, watch out, it’s going to be fun to watch this team.”