They were two of the Dodgers’ coldest hitters over the season’s first two weeks.
On Friday night at Petco Park, however, Mookie Betts and Max Muncy sparked the Dodgers’ latest triumph, combining for four hits, three home runs, five RBIs and four walks in the team’s 6-1 win over the San Diego Padres.
The duo erased the Dodgers early one-run deficit with a pair of solo home runs in the fifth inning — Betts leading off with a second-deck blast to left field, his first home run of the year; and Muncy giving the Dodgers the lead on a high-arching drive that just cleared the wall in right with two outs.
They helped Dodgers pull away down the stretch too — Muncy driving home two runs with a bases-loaded single in the seventh, giving him a season-high three RBIs, and Betts hitting another solo home run in the ninth, giving him his 20th career multi-homer game.
And after they entered the night with the lowest batting averages on the team, they each breathed a long-awaited sigh of relief, finally getting positive results to help the Dodgers — who also received a strong five-inning, one-run start from Julio Urías and four scoreless innings from the bullpen — improve to 10-3 and win their ninth game out of 10.
“In this clubhouse, these guys pick everyone up,” Muncy said. “Tonight was our turn to pick them up. It was awesome.”
Betts’ and Muncy’s struggles over the opening couple weeks hadn’t been identical.
Muncy still was getting over the physical and mental hurdles of the torn elbow ligament he suffered on the last day of last season.
“The fact that I’m actually playing now is not that far off from being something that shouldn’t be happening,” he said.
Muncy had been getting on base, with a team-best nine walks over the first 12 games. He’d been making decent contact too, with an expected slugging percentage that ranked well above league average, according to Baseball Savant.
Still, the slugger’s actual numbers were suffering. Entering Friday, he was just five for 39 (.128) with two doubles, one home run and four RBIs.
“I like when the scoreboards do the OPS instead of batting averages,” Muncy joked. “It doesn’t hurt as bad because I still get on base.”
On Friday, though, all of Muncy’s numbers looked good.
After walking his first two times to the plate, he was rewarded with a long ball in the fifth inning, hitting a center-cut fastball from Padres starter Nick Martinez sky high and just far enough.
Off the bat, Muncy worried Padres right fielder Wil Myers would rob it with a leaping catch, exhaling only once he watched it bounce into a pavilion just beyond the fence.
“He might have walked off the field if Wil would’ve robbed that one,” manager Dave Roberts said with a relieved grin. “But he’s playing good ball.”
Betts, on the other hand, had been mired in an unusually sluggish start.
He not only had been struggling to get aboard during the season’s first 12 games, with a .178 batting average and .288 on-base percentage. But also his contact had been worryingly weak as well, resulting in just two doubles, no home runs and a hard-hit percentage that ranked among the lowest in the majors, per Baseball Savant.
“You have to take ownership for sucking,” Betts said.
As Betts cycled through a series of adjustments with the Dodgers’ coaching staff to no avail, he acknowledged the early-season skid began to take a psychological toll.
“I wasn’t mentally tough,” Betts said, acknowledging he let the frustration get to him and that “it just compounds.”
He credited the rest of the roster with helping break the spiral.
“My teammates [were] kinda gassing me up and keeping me going,” he said. “I got a great crew here. They deserve a lot of credit.”
When Betts barreled up an inside cutter in the fifth inning and launched the ball 420 feet, the rest of the team broke out in celebration, from Freddie Freeman clapping in the on-deck circle to assistant hitting coach Aaron Bates greeting Betts in the dugout with a smiling embrace.
“He’s hit a lot of homers,” Roberts said. “But I think that one tonight felt pretty good.”
And if the first blast was a relief, his second was a reaffirmation, as Betts sent a sinker on the inside edge of the zone soaring into the seats — and cemented the self-belief that had eluded him over the first few weeks.
“That [first home run] definitely carried over into the next at-bat,” Betts said. “Seeing one, knowing you can do it, kind of gained a little confidence.”
Treinen goes on IL
The Dodgers put reliever Blake Treinen on the injured list with shoulder discomfort Friday and recalled left-hander Garrett Cleavinger.
Treinen became the second pitcher to go on the IL with that issue this week, joining starter Andrew Heaney.
Asked before the game if their ailments could be partially a result of the lockout-shortened spring training, Roberts said, “Yeah, I think so.”
He added: “I think with any pitcher, the uncertainty of when we’re going to start, if we’re going to start, and then now we have a week to get ready for spring training, I think that certainly had some impact.”