Dodgers’ Muncy liv­ing dream sea­son

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - SPORTS - Josh Peter

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 news con­fer­ence af­ter he’d lifted the Dodgers to a 3-2 vic­tory over the 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.”

Never?

“It hap­pens in this dream right now, this ex­act one,” said Muncy, 28, Los An­ge­les’ first base­man and left-handed 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.

“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 Ath­let­ics over the 2015 and 2016 sea­sons and had hit just five home runs while bat­ting .263. It wasn’t enough.

Oak­land 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’ Class AAA Ok­la­homa City club, 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. “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 homers in the Na­tional League Di­vi­sion Se­ries against the Braves and ended a mini-drought since then with his home run at 3:29 a.m. ET 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, score 2-2, Muncy lead­ing off against 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.

GARY A. VASQUEZ/USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Dodgers first base­man Max Muncy cel­e­brates af­ter hit­ting a home run against the Red Sox in the 18th in­ning in Game 3 of the World Se­ries at Dodger Sta­dium.

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