LOS ANGELES (AP) — The chants of “MVP! MVP!” rose up from the sellout crowd as Max Muncy approached the plate. He had to stifle a smile at the noise.
Muncy slugged two homers and drove in five runs to highlight a power performance by the Los Angeles Dodgers in a 9-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday night.
Muncy received two MVP votes in 2019. He figures to rate much higher in the voting this season, with the left-handed slugger generating consistent offense while Cody Bellinger struggles and Mookie Betts is sidelined.
“That’s probably one of the cooler moments I’ve ever had in my career,” Muncy said about the chants. “But the most important thing is winning and getting this team back in the World Series. Whatever I can do to help the team win, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Muncy has five homers in his last three games, and 28 on the season.
“There’s no ebbs and flows, he’s very consistent in getting on base, driving in runs and slugging,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Now there’s that MVP talk, and it’s well deserved.”
The Dodgers earned their sixth straight victory and moved within three games of the NL West-leading San Francisco Giants, who lost to the New York Mets in 12 innings.
AJ Pollock and Corey Seager also homered as the Dodgers built a big lead early and cruised after outlasting the Pirates in a pair of low-scoring one-run games. Los Angeles beat Pittsburgh for the 16th straight time, extending its franchise record.
“When you get behind, and we don’t score a lot of runs anyway, it gets very frustrating,” Pirates manager Derek Shelton said, “because it takes us out of our ability to be aggressive.”
Muncy jumped on JT Brubaker in the first inning, belting a two-run shot to left. Seager added an RBI single down the right-field line for a 3-0 lead.
Pollock hit his 15th homer in the second and Muncy connected again in the fourth, making it 7-0 when he blasted a three-run shot to right. Pollock finished 3 for 4 to raise his average to .310 and scored three runs.
Seager added a two-run homer off Kyle Keller in the sixth.
The Pirates were held to three hits in dropping their fifth in a row and 15th in 17 games.
The Dodgers’ Justin Bruihl pitched 1 2/3 innings before turning it over to Mitch White (1-1). The right-hander allowed two hits in 7 1/3 innings. He struck out six and walked two.
“He kept us off balance with the fastball, but the breaking ball and changeup really gave us fits,” Shelton said. “He did a nice job pitching with the lead. He stayed in attack mode and got us to get outside the zone.”
White’s ability to eat up innings was appreciated by a relief corps that faces yet another bullpen game on Thursday night.
“Mitch was amazing and he threw a good game that helped us out a ton,” Muncy said. “He was hitting his spots and everything had life. He looked really good and it was definitely impressive.”
Brubaker (4-13) gave up seven runs and eight hits in four innings. The right-hander struck out six and walked two.
Pirates: LHP Sam Howard (right oblique strain) came out of his first rehab appearance with Triple-A Indianapolis in good shape. “That’s what we were looking for. The command will come,” Shelton said.
Dodgers: OF Mookie Betts (right hip inflammation) may return next week after a rehab assignment that could happen as soon as Sunday. “The concern is the up and downs, the length of a game, and see if his hip will hold up,” Roberts said. … RHP Tony Gonsolin (right shoulder inflammation) will throw a bullpen on Thursday.
PUT A RING ON IT
A crowd of 52,140, the 37th sellout of the season, packed Dodger Stadium in anticipation of the giveaway: a replica of the team’s World Series ring from last year. It was the Dodgers’ first championship since 1988.
Pirates: After an off day, RHP Mitch Keller (3-10, 6.86 ERA) starts Friday at St. Louis.
Dodgers: It’s a bullpen game on Thursday against the New York Mets in the opener of a four-game set.
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