After intentional walk, Muncy gets his revenge

June 10th, 2022

CHICAGO -- When the Dodgers placed  on the injured list on May 28, the idea behind the decision was to let the infielder get fully healthy. But most importantly, the Dodgers were hoping time off would allow Muncy to take his mind off his struggles at the plate this season.

Allowing Muncy to hit the reset button appears to have worked wonders -- at least through one game -- as the All-Star infielder made his return in emphatic fashion, hitting a three-run homer and driving in five runs in the Dodgers’ 11-9 win over the White Sox on Thursday at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“If Max Muncy is Max Muncy, then this lineup is what you guys talked about all Spring Training,” said Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman. “It’s just nice the first game back for him to get some results after going down and making a little adjustment. … That’s Max Muncy. So good for us.”

Before Thursday’s game, Muncy acknowledged that getting time off helped him get healthier. It also allowed him to work on his mechanics and get in a better mental space. Despite going 2-for-14 with a homer and six strikeouts with Triple-A Oklahoma City, Muncy and assistant hitting coach Aaron Bates, who accompanied him on the rehab assignment, both felt the infielder was ready to make his way back to the big leagues.

The Dodgers took Muncy’s word and activated him a game before they had originally planned. They also slotted him right back into his cleanup spot, giving Muncy extra confidence and motivation to perform.

“Today I was batting .000,” Muncy said. “I didn’t have any at-bats on the game, this was the first game of the season for me. That was always the attitude I had coming into this game, regardless of what the results were. This was kind of a new start moving forward.”

Though Muncy wasn’t concerned with the results in his first game back, he was able to give a scuffling Dodgers lineup a big boost. He delivered the big blow in a six-run fifth inning with an opposite-field two-run, two-out double to give them a 5-4 lead. Dating back before his IL stint, the fifth inning double was just his second extra-base hit in his last 15 games.

His third extra-base hit was much louder, and it had some revenge in mind.

In the sixth, with the Dodgers holding onto a 7-5 lead, White Sox manager Tony La Russa elected to intentionally walk Trea Turner although the shortstop was down 1-2 in the count. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he “has never seen” a player intentionally walked in that situation. Turner said he “was confused” when home-plate umpire Ed Hickox told him to take first base.

As Muncy stood in the on-deck circle, he saw La Russa hold up the four fingers. After the game, Muncy said he understood why the Sox manager made the decision, but at the moment, he was looking to make Chicago pay. Muncy did just that, launching a three-run homer to give the Dodgers some much-needed cushion. Once he crossed home plate, he shared some choice words for the home dugout.

“I think Max felt slighted, and I think at times, when a player feels ‘disrespect’, which he wasn’t, he feels that extra focus and to prove the other manager wrong,” Roberts said. “He showed some emotion … That’s who Max is. Sometimes players pull from certain things to get that added edge.”

While seeing results at the plate was a good sign for the Dodgers moving forward, getting that sort of reaction from Muncy might serve as a better indicator that the All-Star is starting to feel more like himself. Just a few years ago, Muncy told Madison Bumgarner to “go get it out of the ocean” after hitting a homer off the lefty.

Since becoming a regular with the Dodgers, Muncy has been one of the team’s biggest competitors. This season, however, Muncy said that inner fire hasn’t been as lit as it has in the past. He couldn’t say why. But a fresh start and some motivation coming from an intentional walk ahead of him might’ve been exactly what he needed.

“To kind of get that back felt really good to be honest,” Muncy said. “It’s just something that I need to have moving forward.”

Whether Muncy continues to produce at the plate remains to be seen. But for at least one day, the Dodgers saw the real Max Muncy. And that’s exactly what Los Angeles needs.

“I truly believe he’s a game-changer in this lineup,” Freeman said. “To get him back in the lineup, it’s no surprise we scored so many runs today.”