As the dust settles following possibly the most explosive trade deadline in MLB history, most contending teams have had the opportunity to see their new faces perform on the field. Anthony Rizzo had a huge weekend for the Yankees in Miami while Kris Bryant and Javier Baez both homered in their respective debuts in New York and San Francisco, greeted by standing ovations. Craig Kimbrel pitched a scoreless frame for the White Sox. Even Josiah Gray, who the Dodgers sent to Washington in last week’s blockbuster, pitched 5 strong innings in his Nationals debut last night.
For the Dodgers, though, the waiting game continues. Trea Turner tested positive for Covid-19 last week and is still unavailable – the Dodgers hope he’ll be able to return this weekend against the Angels. Max Scherzer made a start for Washington the day before his trade became official but finally lines up to start for the Dodgers on Wednesday night in one of the more anticipated ever home debuts for a recently traded player. Scherzer recognizes the significance of the moment, and the opponent.
The Astros famously defeated the Dodgers in the 2017 World Series – and from the perspective of a non-affiliated fan, it was one of the most exciting 7-game playoff series the sport has ever seen. At the time, it was somewhat of a feel good story despite defeat. After all, a city ravaged by Hurricane Harvey and feeling unimaginable loss having something to celebrate felt like a good thing. Sports cannot undo tragedy, nor erase the pain that follows it – in that moment, though, the distraction of championship elation gave grieving Houstonians a moment to crack a smile. I felt the weight of that as I spoke to Astros fans leaving Dodger Stadium that night. To me, the best therapy was to congratulate the victors, especially given the circumstances – and in that moment, it really did help.
When news broke of the Astros’ cheating scandal, I was as furious as any other Dodgers fan. The knowledge that such a hard fought series full of emotional highs and lows ultimately ended in crushing defeat as a direct result of foul play really stung. Suddenly, Clayton Kershaw’s curveball becoming unprecedentedly hittable in Houston was explainable. I was full of rage, wanting the players involved removed from the game I love so much and their title stripped. The memories of the series can never be erased, and at some level that’s a good thing – Houstonians deserved a night to feel how they did. Astros fans didn’t choose to stain the game with the indignity that the players and coaches did, and it’s important we remember that.
When the Astros take the field tonight, boo them loudly. Get out of your system whatever you need to – those emotions you feel are real, and many of their players deserve to hear what they’re going to from fans for as long as they play this game. Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa are forever cheaters, and ought to be overcome by the stench of that until their careers end. Many Dodgers fans like myself paid more to attend those games than we could afford, seeking a once in a lifetime experience with loved ones that we never knew if we’d have a chance to again. We’ll never get that back.
While you’re chanting “cheater”, banging trash cans, and booing, though, remember who your rage is directed towards. Houston is a diverse city, and its fans are passionate people who love their baseball team, just like we are. Fans weren’t responsible for the stain the Astros’ cheating left on the game, or the rage you feel when you see their logo. Many of them will defend their 2017 “championship” to this day, citing various reasons you and I likely disagree with or believe are absurd. Rather than arguing with them, heckling them, or whatever else you had in mind, try to understand what that night meant to them.
Recognize the humanity around the situation – the tragedy the city endured, the joy the championship brought, and the pride those fans felt for years before its stain was revealed to all of us.
If you need to, take a couple nights off from Twitter. Don’t yell at the Astros fans you see on the concourse. Enjoy the environment in person and on television instead. Enjoy Walker Buehler pitching with focus and emotion, and the epic debut to follow from Max Scherzer. Root for the Dodgers to embarrass those who deserve it – the players on the field. And finally, let those cheating ***holes on the field hear you. They’re the ones that ought to.
Tuesday, August 3
7:10 pm PT
Lance McCullers Jr. (8-2, 3.23 ERA) vs Walker Buehler (11-1, 2.19 ERA)
The much-anticipated Astros-Dodgers series starts Tuesday night as both teams send their aces to the mound for what should be quite a showdown. With Jacob deGrom’s injury status up in the air heading into the season’s final two months, Walker Buehler suddenly finds himself squarely in the National League Cy Young conversation after winning NL Pitcher of the Month for his scintillating July (3-0, 1.67 ERA). He’s pitched at least 7 full innings in three consecutive starts and dominated San Francisco for 14.1 innings over the last 2 while allowing only 1 run combined. He’s 17-5 with a 2.39 career ERA at home and is known to pitch especially well in big games.
The Astros offense has been ridiculously good this season, leading baseball in runs scored (580), hits (968), and average (.267). Buehler will need to be sharp if he wants to pitch late into the game again tonight and limit the bullpen’s exposure to an explosive group of bats.
Lance McCullers pitches for the Astros following two of his worst starts of the season, allowing 4 runs each to Cleveland and the Mariners. McCullers still managed to go 3-1 in July, thanks in part to an offense that provides plenty of run support along the way. He’s best known for his sinker and the two breaking balls that work off of it, a curveball and slider that he throws a combined 48% of the time. He’s done a great job of avoiding barrels and inducing swings that miss, but allows a high exit velocity and walks a lot of hitters. He relies to some extent on batters chasing breaking balls outside the zone, so the Dodgers will need to be disciplined to keep him from finding a rhythm early.
Wednesday, August 4
6:40 pm ET
Jake Odorizzi (4-5, 4.30 ERA) vs Max Scherzer (8-4, 2.76 ERA)
As excited as we all are to watch Walker Buehler go to work tonight, Wednesday night is going to be a must-see debut for the Dodgers’ newest three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer. His pedigree speaks for itself, and Dodgers fans are certainly familiar with the 37-year old’s exploits after years of opposing him, often in the postseason. He’s coming off a frustrating July that saw him struggle in two starts against San Diego but has more often than not looked like his vintage self this season en route to a 2.76 ERA while currently 5th in the NL with 147 strikeouts. Chavez Ravine will be rocking, and Scherzer will look to feed off of that energy in his first start in Dodger blue.
The Astros will send Jake Odorizzi to the mound, a veteran pitching for his fourth team over a solid 10-year career. Odorizzi won 15 games for Minnesota in 2019, his best career season, but hasn’t been able to replicate those results in ‘20 or ‘21. This season is his first pitching for the Astros, and it’s certainly seen its ups and downs. He had an awful April (10.13 ERA) but was excellent in May and June (1.69, 2.45 ERAs respectively) before settling into a pedestrian July that saw him go 2-2 with a 4.62 ERA. His last three starts have been a bit rocky, allowing 22 baserunners 13.1 innings of work despite getting to face the Rangers and Mariners during that span. Odorizzi isn’t going to blow Dodgers hitters away with his repertoire, relying on soft contact and pinpoint control to navigate through the game. Like against McCullers, the goal for LA is to get into Houston’s bullpen early on and force their recent additions to prove themselves.
With both Buehler and Scherzer pitching in the two-game set, the Dodgers will certainly be heavy favorites both nights. Houston’s offensive firepower is top-tier, and the Dodgers will need to be sharp on the mound and get their own bats going early in games if they intend to prove oddsmakers right. After a day off and in front of sellout crowds at the Ravine, here’s hoping they’re ready for a fight.