Dodgers, unlike fans, go silent against Astros and can't make them pay in loss

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·5 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
LOS ANGELES, CALIF. - AUG. 3, 2021. Dodgers starter Walker Buehler delivers a pitch against the Astros in the first inning at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2021. The Astros cheated by stealing signals during the 2017 World Series against Dodgers. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler delivers a pitch against the Houston Astros in the first inning at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Wrestlemania features a rowdy crowd, designated villains and scripted action. Astromania debuted at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday, with a rowdy crowd, designated villains and unscripted action. The evening was real, and it was spectacular.

Two years of fan frustration erupted in explosions of seriously sustained boos, inflatable trash cans and chants of “Cheat-ers!” The Houston Astros, playing before Dodger Stadium fans for the first time since Major League Baseball condemned them as cheaters in the year they beat the Dodgers in the World Series, were treated as if they were outcasts in a public square.

Great theater, and great teams too. Perhaps they will meet again here, in this year’s World Series.

Can you imagine? It’s easy if you try: The team with the best run differential in the National League is the Dodgers. The team with the best run differential in the American League is the Astros.

A rematch of the 2017 World Series, this time with ethics.

On Tuesday, the Dodgers and Astros treated the largest crowd in baseball this season — announced at 52,692 — to seven innings of a taut thriller. The Astros scored two runs in the eighth, on a home run by Yordan Alvarez, completing the scoring in a 3-0 victory.

Since the All-Star break, the Dodgers are 6-3 against the bottom two teams in the NL West and 2-6 against the teams with the best records in the majors, the Astros and San Francisco Giants. The Dodgers trail the Giants by 3½ games in the NL West; they lead the third-place San Diego Padres by 2½ games.

For the Dodgers and Astros, the teams might not have changed since 2017, but both casts of characters have. The Astros’ lineup Tuesday included two position players from the Game 7 lineup in 2017: Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa, both of whom were jeered mercilessly.

The Astros’ Game 7 starting pitcher was Lance McCullers Jr. On that night, he pitched 2-1/3 innings. He gave up no runs and three hits.

McCullers started Tuesday. He pitched 6-2/3 innings. He gave up no runs and four singles, the last one a line drive off his foot. He struck out nine and earned the win.

“There were a lot of people here and obviously a lot of booing, but I liked it,” McCullers said. “I enjoyed it.”

Walker Buehler, who made his debut in 2017 but did not make the Dodgers’ playoff roster, pitched with strength and endurance on behalf of a city out for vengeance.

“It’s a playoff game in terms of how it feels and sounds out there,” Buehler said. “It’s a big game for us, obviously. There’s a lot of emotion in that clubhouse. …

“I think the emotion is warranted. There’s not a whole lot we’re going to do to change that. But certainly a different atmosphere, different feel than most baseball games.”

Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy reacts after striking out.
Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy reacts after striking out with two men on base against the Houston Astros in the seventh inning at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

For the 21st time in 22 starts this season, Buehler completed six innings. He tied his season high with 113 pitches. He lowered his earned-run average to 2.16, best in the NL.

He still took the loss. In the third inning — the only one in which Buehler gave up more than one hit — he gave up a double to Martin Maldonado and a two-out, run-scoring double to Michael Brantley.

“My job is to get guys out,” Buehler said. “I didn’t get the percentage of guys out that I needed. There’s not a whole lot to be pleased about.”

The Dodgers got one runner to third base — with two out in the eighth inning. Cody Bellinger, representing the tying run, struck out.

Bellinger is now batting .165, the lowest average among all NL players with at least 200 plate appearances.

Before the game, manager Dave Roberts said he thought the evening might bring some closure — not to the players, who have seen the Astros twice last year and once previously this year, but to the fans.

“I know that the fans haven’t had that opportunity,” Roberts said. “I think, for them, feeling that there is potentially some closure, from that aspect, I totally get it.”

From the vantage point of the Houston bullpen, Astros closer Ryne Stanek said, there were a few minutes when the relievers could see Dodgers fans throwing beers on Astros fans, triggering mass pouring of beers on the heads of fans rather than into the mouths of fans.

“It was kind of a bonkers atmosphere to play in, for sure,” Stanek said.

Inflatable trash cans ricocheted through the stands and bounced onto the field. Fans threw balls hit by the Astros back onto the field — batting practice balls and foul balls too. At one point, public address announcer Todd Leitz reminded the crowd that abusive behavior, foul language and throwing things on the field all could be grounds for ejection.

The fans booed. They waited two years for this, and no one would deprive them of their catharsis.

The Dodgers and Astros play again Wednesday, completing the season series, with Max Scherzer taking the mound in his Dodgers debut. They could play them again in October, and that would be quite a show. The villains do not need to wear black hats. Los Angeles knows who they are.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.