Los Angeles Dodgers’ Max Muncy a resilient hero
SportsPulse: Both the Red Sox and the Dodgers take the mic following Los Angeles’ Game 3 victory.
LOS ANGELES — Max Muncy hit both of them out the park.
First, his game-winning home run, a 382-foot solo shot, in the bottom of the 18th inning. Then, the first question at his postgame press conference after he’d lifted the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 3-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox in Game 3 of the World Series.
“In what sort of crazy dream do you go from being unemployed at the end of spring training to hitting a walk-off home run in the World Series?’’ a reporter asked before adding, “That never happens.”
“It happens in this dream right now, this exact one,’’ said Muncy, 28, the Dodgers’ first baseman and lefthanded slugger. “No, it’s kind of like you said, it’s been a dream. This whole year has been a surreal experience that it’s hard to put into words.
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“But just getting a chance to play in the World Series has kind of capped it off. And then getting a chance to hit a walk-off home run, obviously there’s not many words I can use to describe that. The feeling was just pure joy and incredible excitement. That’s about all I can think of because it’s hard to describe how good a feeling it is.’’
Less than two years ago, the feeling was dread. Muncy was jobless.
He played 96 games for the Oakland A’s over the 2015 and 2016 seasons and had hit just five home runs while batting .263. It wasn’t enough.
The A’s released him in 2017 before the end of spring training.
Muncy’s unemployment status lasted more than three weeks before the Dodgers signed him to a minor league contract. He had a productive season in 2017 with the Dodgers’ Triple-A Oklahoma City, which is where he started this season before getting called up to the big leagues.
“Everyone has a different path,’’ Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said, suggesting Muncy has benefited from his struggles as a pro and from three years at Baylor University. “…He really understands who he is as a baseball player.
“This is an opportunity that he’s created for himself. All the credit goes to him to take it and run. And he’s gotten a lot of big hits for us.’’
During the regular season, Muncy led the Dodgers in home runs with 35 and slashed .263/.391/.582. He hit two more home runs in the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves and ended a mini-drought since then with his game-winning home run at 12:29 a.m. PT Saturday.
Asked about his quantum leap in performance from his stint with the A’s to now, Muncy said, “There’s a lot of mechanical changes, most importantly a lot of mental changes. And all that put together has led to this point right now.’’
The critical point was this: Bottom of the 18th, game tied at 2-2, Muncy leading off against Boston Red Sox pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, whose fastball had registered 100 mph.
“I got 3-0 and he was able to work back two strikes, full count,’’ Muncy said. “The at-bat before, he had got me on a really good backdoor cutter. He had really good stuff all night long and he wasn’t missing a spot. Next at-bat he tried to go backdoor cutter again, but he left this one a little over the plate, and thankfully for me he did that, because I was able to get my bat to it.’’
The ball soared 382 feet, cleared the wall in left center and set off yet another celebration — and the biggest yet — for the once-unlikely hero.