This is Thunderdome.
Max Muncy knocked in all three runs and the Los Angeles Dodgers rallied to beat the rival Angels, 3-2, on Friday night at Dodger Stadium.
Following three games in Anaheim last weekend, the Freeway series shifted north to Chavez Ravine, where the Dodgers entered the Friday the 13th game in sole possession of first place in the division.
While there were no ghosts, ghouls, or black cats at the game, "Mad Max" will certainly give the Angels nightmares for days to come, as he homered in the first inning, and drove in the tying and go-ahead runs in the bottom of the seventh.
"He rises to the occasion and rises to the moment and gets the big hit when you need it," Dodgers' manager Dave Roberts said of Muncy. "The homer was big obviously, but the double was huge...when he's not afraid to take a strike, he's pretty dangerous."
Muncy started the scoring early for the Boys in Blue with his 22nd home run of the season off Felix Peña in the bottom of the first inning.
"I was battling," Muncy told Alanna Rizzo of SportsNetLA from the field of his at-bat against Peña. "I had a full count there. He left a fastball over the plate for me and I was able to get the barrel to it and good things happened."
It's no wonder Muncy will participate in the T-Mobile Home Run Derby on Monday in Washington D.C. as part of the MLB All-Star game festivities, as he sits alone in fourth place in the NL for most longballs this season.
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However, it's not just homers that places Muncy among the leaders in the NL in offense, Muncy's 1.019 OPS leads the NL and his 10.14 home runs per at bat is the best in all of baseball. His .414 OBP and .606 slugging percentage are also the second highest in the league.
"He's earned his way to the top of the lineup and good things happen when he's at the plate," said starting pitcher Walker Buehler.
Kole Calhoun spoiled Buehler's return to the Big Leagues by taking the 23-year-old rookie deep not once, but twice in the game.
"I got a couple pitches to drive and put some good swings on them," said Calhoun. "Fortunately enough, they left the yard. It's nice to continue to try and help the team."
Calhoun tied the game with a solo shot to center field in the top of the third inning.
"A little frustration," admitted Buehler of the pitch to Calhoun. "The fastball to Calhoun was pretty close to where I was trying to go and he put a really, really good swing on it."
The red-headed outfielder gave the Halos the lead with an opposite field shot off Buehler in the top of the fifth. Calhoun's two longballs marked his fourth career multi-homer game and first since June 1, 2017 against the Minnesota Twins.
"I think it was the first changeup of the game that I threw to him and he drove it the other way," said Buehler of the second home run he surrendered to Calhoun. "That's not my best pitch, but I liked it in that situation and it wasn't good enough."
Outside of the solo shots to Calhoun, Buehler, who was reinstated from the 10-day disabled list prior to the game, was solid in his first start since June 8th.
"I thought Walker was amped up to be back in a Major League game," said Roberts of Buehler's return. "Outside of Calhoun, there would have been no damage."
In his first career appearance against the Angels, Buehler allowed two runs on six hits with one walk and five strikeouts in five innings. He did not factor in the decision.
"I'm still trying to find my rhythm," said Buehler. "I made some good pitches, but Calhoun got two good swings off. I definitely was a little amped than I normally would be, but that's part of the process."
Felix Peña left the game in the bottom of the fifth inning before facing a single batter as the Dodgers opted to pinch-hit for Buehler to lead things off.
Peña also did not factor in the decision, allowing one run on just three hits with three walks and five strikeouts in four short innings of work.
"It's tough to get a guy that hasn't started to the 100-110 pitch mark," said Scioscia of why he pulled Peña after just four innings. "He started a little bit slow, was a little erratic...I think he settled in and threw the ball better, but there was not a lot of length left going into the fifth and that was enough for the night."
The Dodgers got off the mat in the bottom of the seventh inning, as Logan Forsythe kicked off the comeback with a leadoff single to center field.
Six pitches later, Joc Pederson doubled down the right field line and the ducks were on the pound for "Mad Max."
Muncy tied the game with an RBI single to right-center, but the throw to the plate was airmailed by Calhoun, allowing Pederson to score the go-ahead run, and Muncy to move up to second base.
"It started with Logi [Logan Forysthe]," said Muncy of the seventh inning rally. "He had a great at-bat. He didn't chase anything. He was throwing a lot of good curveballs to him and he got one up over the plate, drove it back up the middle, and then Joc continued it going, and I was able to get a good pitch."
In his last 33 starts since June 3, Muncy is batting .313 with 29 runs, 15 homers, and 22 RBI. During that span, he has reached base safely in 30 games and drawn 34 walks.
Caleb Ferguson recorded his second win of the season after tossing two perfect innings of relief with three strikeouts. Since moving to the bullpen, Ferguson has been light’s out, going 2-0 with one save and posting a 1.38 ERA with 16 strikeouts.
After blowing the save against the Angels in a similar situation last week in Anaheim, All-Star closer Kenley Jansen, did not get a chance for redemption, as he was not available after pitching back-to-back games in San Diego.
Instead, Scott Alexander, pitched the ninth inning for the Dodgers, earning his first save of the season, and fifth of his career, but not before some nerve-racking drama ensued.
With one out in the top of the ninth, Japanese sensation, Shohei Ohtani, hit a pinch-hit double off the wall in left-center and advanced to third base on an infield single.
"It started having that feel a little bit, especially when Ohtani got on there," said Muncy of some deja vu from last Friday's blown save. "It was kind of the same circumstances, but we were able to pull this one out and it was a good win."
The Angels had runners at the corners and one out, but Alexander induced David Fletcher to ground into the game-ending double play.
"I'm always looking for groundballs, so really I'm just trying to keep that guy at first and keep that force out and give those guys a chance to turn it," said Alexander of the double-play. "I'm glad it wasn't a blown save."
With the victory, the Dodgers have evened the 2018 Freeway Series with the Halos at two wins apiece.
"They're a very well managed team over there," said Roberts of the Freeway Series so far. "All four games he's been aggressive with the pen and understanding the matchups and doing everything he can to play us tough. Right now, we're even. We'll see what happens over the next two games."
Despite the loss, the Angels are the only team in the Major Leagues with a winning record (65-53) against the Dodgers since they moved to Los Angeles in 1958 (minimum 40 games).
Farewell Tour For "The Man"
In a news conference earlier in the day, Dodgers veteran second baseman Chase Utley announced his intention to retire at the end of the 2018 season.
Utley received a standing ovation when he was announced as a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the fifth inning and promptly hit a single to right field.
Former Dodger for a day, LHP Andrew Heaney, will start on Saturday against Clayton Kershaw. First pitch is scheduled for 4:15PM PST.
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