LOS ANGELES — Thirty years since the last Dodgers’ walk-off home run in a World Series game, those in attendance in Dodger Stadium who gutted out the 18 innings and the grueling seven hours and 20 minutes were rewarded with a Max Muncy walk-off home run:
The last time a World Series game ended in walk-off fashion, it was Game 6 of the 2011 Fall Classic when David Freese — now Muncy’s teammate! — clubbed one to dead center in extra innings in St. Louis’ Busch Stadium.
There have now been just two walk-off, World Series home runs in the illustrious history of the Dodgers’ franchise.
Man, when the Dodgers walk-off in the World Series, they give it a little added juice. The Gibson shot is one of the most memorable baseball plays ever and Muncy closed down the longest World Series game ever. That’s a “wow.”
It was a bit of a redemptive game for Muncy, too, because he had been struggling. He hit a home run in his only at-bat in Game 1 of the NLDS, but since then — heading into Game 3 — he was hitting .171/.310/.257 with 20 strikeouts in 35 at-bats. Yuck. He had come off the bench in each of the first two games of this series, too. This time around, he played the entire game.
In a way, it’s fitting for Muncy and his journey. He was without a job back in the spring to hero in a World Series game his team absolutely had to have.
“It’s been a dream,” he said. “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.”
The Dodgers signed Muncy on April 28, after he was nearly a month without a job, because they desperately needed some help to cover injuries. He would end up playing a bit of a hero for the team in the first half of the season while they dealt with said injuries. In a way, Muncy’s playoffs have unfolded in similar fashion now.
In Muncy’s previous at-bat in Game 3, he actually provided quite the tease job in Dodger Stadium. He crushed what would’ve been a walk-off homer down the right field line, but it ended up nestling into the seats having traveled just foul of the pole, maybe by a foot or so. Had the Dodgers lost the game after that — and let’s face it, a loss here effectively ends the Dodgers’ season — Muncy surely would have been replaying that swing over and over in his mind, wondering how he could have somehow had that ball end up just a foot left of its actual destination.
“I got it good off the bat, and I was kind of walking down the line,” he said. “I wasn’t sure if it was going to be fair or foul. From where I was standing, when I saw it land in the seats, I saw how far back it was, which was only a couple of rows, and then I looked how far over it was, and I knew immediately there was no way it could have went behind the pole, just from where it landed. Doesn’t mean I didn’t get my hopes up when I’m looking in the dugout and they’re checking the replay to see if they want to check it or not. From my vantage point I was pretty positive it was foul right away.”
It only enhanced the drama for the 18th at 12:39 a.m. local time — which was 3:39 a.m. back in Boston. There was another layer to the equation, too. Muncy said after the game in the on-camera interview that Red Sox pitcher Nathan Eovaldi, who threw 97 pitches in relief, had worked him with the same sequence of pitches in the previous at-bat. As such, it really was a second chance for Muncy and he made good on it.
All of a sudden, things are looking up for Muncy and the Dodgers. He went 2 for 6 with a double and home run in the game. He drew two walks and only struck out once in eight plate appearances, too, so he already raised his postseason slash line to .214/.389/.452.
In the process of the 18 innings, Muncy seemed to get his mojo back and the Red Sox saw their pitching staff completely depleted while the Dodgers stayed alive and put together a very realistic shot at winning Game 4 and evening up the series. Not too shabby for 18 innings.
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