CINCINNATI — When Mookie Betts went to the injured list with a cracked rib last weekend, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Betts’ absence “kind of made me think twice about how I construct the lineup.”
Those second thoughts led to Justin Turner batting seventh for the first time since 2014. They have not, however, led to Max Muncy and his .155 average and .592 OPS moving from the middle of the Dodgers’ lineup.
Despite his season-long offensive struggles, Muncy made his 27th start of the season batting fourth on Wednesday night, the most on the team. Not coincidentally, the Dodgers’ cleanup hitters rank last in the National League in batting average (.188 through Tuesday) and 11th in slugging percentage (.381).
“I think, versus right-handed pitching, what he has shown – even though he hasn’t performed the way he would’ve expected – is he’s found a way to get on base,” Roberts said of Muncy, who took a .338 on-base percentage against right-handed pitching (thanks to 31 of his 41 walks) into Wednesday’s game.
“Certainly what he’s done as far as track record – as far as even in the here and now – he still has the on-base tool.”
Even as he says that, however, Roberts admits he would like to see Muncy be more aggressive at the plate.
“It’s interesting – at times, he’s controlling the zone and then at other times, I think he’s too passive,” Roberts said. “There’s times where I see him using the big part of the field and then other times, I see him trying to use the right-field foul pole. I think there’s a mechanics component, I also think there’s a mindset and mental approach that needs to be accounted for, too. It’s something he’s gotta figure out to show some consistency.”
Roberts’ response, when asked if that is enough to keep batting Muncy in the middle of the lineup, is basically – if not him then who?
“I have to look at options as far as what we have as far as replacements or solutions,” Roberts said. “And also, you’re still making bets on players to perform more to their track records. That’s something that I’m very slow-moving on – self-admitted – guys that have earned that right.”
Muncy is certainly not the only Dodgers hitter who is – as President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman put it last week – “underperforming the back of their baseball cards.”
“I think that a lot of the guys have been guilty of inconsistency of at-bat qualities,” Roberts said. “I think we’re all searching for that.”
One thing Roberts said he is not willing to do is to resign himself to not having the best version of Muncy at all this season.
“I’m not there. And I don’t expect him to be there,” Roberts said. “He’s going to continue to get a runway and opportunity. But I expect it to turn.”
Tyler Anderson didn’t take a no-hitter into the ninth inning of his start against the Angels last week after all.
MLB announced a scoring change from the seventh inning of that game. Jared Walsh’s dribbler on the infield grass, which was fielded and thrown wildly to first base by Anderson, was originally ruled an error by Anderson. That has been changed to an infield single now.
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“I wish I would have known that then,” Roberts joked.
Roberts left Anderson in to throw 123 pitches over 8⅓ innings. Anderson ultimately gave up a triple to Shohei Ohtani with one out in the ninth inning to break up what everyone thought was a no-hit bid.
Hanser Alberto was placed on paternity leave before Wednesday’s game and outfielder Stefen Romero was promoted from Triple-A Oklahoma City. Edwin Rios was moved to the 60-day injured list to create a spot for Romero on the 40-man roster. Rios (hamstring) will not be eligible to return until early August now.
Dodgers (LHP Clayton Kershaw, 4-1, 2.08 ERA) at Reds (RHP Hunter Greene, 3-7, 5.26 ERA), Thursday, 9:35 a.m., SportsNet LA, 570 AM