The Dodgers And The Astros Felt Like A World Series Preview

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LOS ANGELES – Bang, bang, the Houston Astros aren’t dead. Not buried. And to the dismay of the team’s many detectorists, they’re not even yesterday’s garbage.

The Astros took the sharpest arrows from a bloodthirsty Dodger Stadium crowd twice this week and still emerged with the best record in the American League. With every inflatable trash can thrown onto the field and deafening, humiliating chants (“Cheaters! Scammers! Scammers!” and worse), these Astros continued to distance themselves from the franchises. sign theft scandal.

It was two eventful nights in Los Angeles, where fans are still convinced their team was the victim of the 2017 World Series heist. They had waited four years to personally scream at the Astros.

They were disappointed after the series opener when Astros pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. hit a nine-sixth and a two-thirds shot. 3-0 prevent entry. But then, on Wednesday, Max Scherzer didn’t just make his Dodgers debut. 7-5 He won, but also made himself popular with his new fan base by eliminating Jose Altuve three times. After more than seven blissful hits followed by a curtain call, Scherzer did everything but bring an apple to his new manager, Dave Roberts.

“It’s probably one of the best atmospheres I’ve ever played,” said Mookie Betts, the team’s All-Star kicker. “It was pretty amazing to be a part of it. I will definitely put this in the memory bank.”

When the last boos ended and public enemies Altuve and Carlos Correa left the building, one could imagine the Dodgers-Astros World Series rematch in October. It would be great news for hipster trash can vendors, and crowds this week—52,692 and 52,724, two of baseball’s biggest this summer—will be of interest to Major League Baseball.

“It was the playoff atmosphere, you know?” Astros Manager Dusty Baker, himself a longtime Dodgers player, cried out after Tuesday’s game. “These fans have been in love with the Dodgers all these years. They really are falling for the Dodger blue. It was exciting.

“I don’t really like playing a game because I’m far from playing it, but this was a game I would enjoy playing.”

Only six of the 2017 championship teams are left with the Astros, but Alex Bregman (out with a quadriceps injury since June 16), Justin Verlander (out for the season after Tommy John surgery) and first baseman Yuli Gurriel (neck stiffness) are closed. pitcher and McCullers. This makes Correa and Altuve magnets for the faces of the scandal and the anger of opposing fans.

“You have no choice,” Baker said of the season-long booing. “You either thrive or you succumb to it. If you succumb to this, the crowd has won. You must support and develop each other. It’s kind of a survival tactic.”

Correa does pre-game batting practice in closed batting cages in the league, so fans don’t crack up on him until game time. Altuve hits the pitch, which means the boos and whistles start early for him and the volume gets exponentially higher for the rest of the evening.

But as the season approaches stretch running, the Astros are getting more steely. Just San Francisco has a better track record in the branches. Before Scherzer knocked out the Astros on Wednesday, Houston’s 43-25 record against winning teams this season represented both the game’s most wins and their best win percentage against opponents better than .500. And the Astros led majors in series scored (583) and base percentage (.341) and had the fewest hits in majors (804).

Pariahs, yes. But they are also perennials.

“It takes a special player to wear the Astros jersey,” said second-year casual Blake Taylor. “If you’re not willing to endure the craziness every time you’re on the pitch, every stadium we’re in, if you can’t handle it – that’s hard work. And the team we have right now is totally involved.

“Every single person in this club gets booed in every stadium, called cheaters, and at the end of the day we put up with it because we have each other’s backs. It takes something special to put the Astros on your chest.”

No one waited for Dodgers fans to avenge Houston.

On Tuesday, Neal Brown, 41, of Simi Valley, California, and Josh Johnson, 40, appeared in jerseys created by Brown’s daughter, Samantha. The inscription “Trashstros” crossed over the chest, and “Bang Bang” lay on the back shoulders of the number 17 (for 2017). Friends said they bought the tickets the day they went on sale.

“We were coming no matter what,” Brown said.

McCullers’ launch of the series against Walker Buehler in front of the Grouch Oscar and “Cheaters” T-shirts (and more) was perfectly fitting given McCullers’ ties to the 2017 team, his feisty personality, and the raw emotions that resounded in the stadium. Like cutting power lines.

During his pre-match conversation with catcher Martin Maldonado, McCullers told him he wanted to attack the attack zone, “put them behind them, I want to overwhelm them.”

Scherzer did essentially the same thing overnight, with 10 strokes and a fastball that averaged 95.2 miles per hour, a few clicks above the season average. Acquisition with infielder Trea Turner, was more expression than trade, in keeping with the old “winning is not everything, it’s the only thing” mentality under George Steinbrenner.

Scherzer, who has no commercial powers, agreed to go after a meeting with Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo, in which Rizzo mentioned the need to “re-equip” the organization. After that decision was made, Scherzer, 37, said he gave Rizzo a small roster of teams he would agree to go with. Driving factors: He wanted to stay in the National League for the rest of the season as he was familiar with the hitters and wanted to pitch for the hot weather competitor.

The curtain call was the first of her career, she said, “a cool moment and a moment I will never forget.” It was pitcher Clayton Kershaw who pushed him out of the bunker and told Scherzer to give the fans “what they wanted”.

“At that point the crowd was going crazy and I wanted to take my hat off to appreciate what they were doing,” Scherzer said. “They brought incredible energy tonight and it’s fun to put that in front of you. That’s what you live for.”

While the Dodgers let the fans do the talking, there’s little doubt that the disdain between these teams is real. In May, when the Dodgers visited Houston, Justin Turner posted a photo on Instagram of him posing with the nearby Betts in front of a trash can in Minute Maid Park. The caption reads “Comments welcomed!” was writing.

Then Houston was conspicuously absent from the All-Star Game in Denver last month. All four Astros selected to the American League team were scratched, with many outsiders concluding that Altuve, Correa, outfielder Michael Brantley and closer Ryan Pressly didn’t want to risk awkward situations with their AL teammates.

“Four guys are passing the All-Star game? I think that surprised everybody,” NL captain Roberts said this week, noting that one of his players, Betts, is also itching to heal from an injury.

Pitcher Joe Kelly, who wasn’t with the Dodgers when they lost the 2017 World Series, called the Astros “informers and rats” last year, outplayed Correa in September, then teasing Correa with a sullen face, which led to a bench-clearing incident. Kelly later rose to folk hero status with a giant Wall next to a barber shop in Los Angeles to commemorate the event.

Kelly, repeating neither his recklessness nor his poetry a year later, burst into Scherzer’s relief with a thunderous applause, but delivered a Correa homer. 7-2 behind, the Astros could have been knocked down. They didn’t.

The players have guts — Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson, now special counsel to Houston owner Jim Crane, has noticed that.

“These guys are playing, son,” said Jackson, who was in town for Tuesday’s game. “They play, they play, they play. They play hard.”

He added to one of his favorite quotes he originally said about himself: “They don’t boo anyone.”

Huge crowds sent each team forward in its own pennant race.

“When the atmosphere isn’t like that, we urgently need to keep playing and take some responsibility and do it ourselves and not worry about the crowd,” Betts said of Dodgers, who continued to chase San Francisco at NL West. Said.

Someone asked the Astros manager Baker about his familiarity with Scherzer – he’s led the Nationals and Scherzer in 2016 and 2017 – and he quickly dismissed the idea.

“I can’t tell you that,” Baker said. “Because it’s like Scherzer reads everything. We may have to face him again, hopefully at the World Series.

“Why should I tell you what I know about him if it’s going to help him beat us? He doesn’t need help.”

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