LOS ANGELES — Dodgers fans had a lot to say – mostly the same thing, but a lot of it.
Chanted by groups or bellowed by individuals, it started as soon as the gates were opened for Tuesday’s game against the Houston Astros. Batting practice home runs and even foul balls – like the one in the first inning by Jose Altuve (one of only four Astros who participated in the tainted 2017 World Series still on their active roster) – were thrown back onto the field by angry Dodger fans.
The game was interrupted multiple times when inflatable trash cans bouncing around in the pavilions landed in play on the warning track.
Intent on winning the War of 2017, a sellout crowd of 52,692 – the largest for any MLB game this year – tried to boo their way to catharsis, heaving foul balls hit by Astros back onto the field to express their disdain. Back in present-day MLB, however, the Dodgers managed just five singles and lost, 3-0.
“It’s a playoff game in terms of how it feels and sounds out there. It’s a big game for us, obviously. There’s a lot of emotion in that clubhouse,” said Dodgers starting pitcher Walker Buehler, a non-combatant in the 2017 postseason.
“They sustained the noise, which is a tip of the hat to our fans. Obviously, there were a few stoppages during the game, stuff thrown on the field. I get it. It’s an interesting thing. 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.”
Not for the Astros. They have been greeted similarly – maybe not with the same intensity – on the road all season, a Loathe-apalooza Tour to which they’ve become accustomed.
“I enjoyed the reception on the way out to the (bullpen),” Astros starter Lance McCullers Jr. said. “I felt comfortable, felt calm. … It was obviously a lot of booing, but I liked it. I enjoyed it.”
Astros closer Ryne Stanek said things “got a little hectic” in the pavilion seats as the night got late.
“People started throwing stuff at Astros fans and for a few minutes you basically sat there and watched people throw full beers at people for half an inning,” Stanek said. “It was kind of a bonkers atmosphere to play in, for sure.”
All the booing, chanting, trash can costumes and foam-finger asterisks couldn’t put anything on the scoreboard for the Dodgers on Tuesday.
McCullers (the ‘other’ starting pitcher in Game 7 of that 2017 World Series) pitched into the seventh inning, allowing just four singles to a Dodgers lineup that included Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner, Max Muncy and Corey Seager for just the fourth time this season (the first since April 5).
“His ball was just moving a lot,” Dodgers catcher Will Smith said of McCullers. “He was throwing really hard, making pitches, keeping us off balance. He probably got away with some mistakes that we missed, didn’t capitalize on. He pitched a really good game. But we definitely had our shots. We just didn’t capitalize.”
No, they did not. The Dodgers stranded 10 runners on base by going 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position. Four of those key situational at-bats ended with a Dodger batter striking out.
“In each isolated at-bat that we had runners in scoring position, I thought there were a couple pitches we’d like to have back,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “That’s the game of baseball. They’re going to try to make pitches and beat you and we’re going to try to get hits.”
The best support Buehler got came on defense where Betts – playing second base for the second consecutive game – made a spectacular diving catch of Michael Brantley’s line drive in the fifth inning.
Buehler went six innings for the 21st time in 22 starts this season – but he had to work for it, matching his season-high with 113 pitches. The Astros dinged him for just one run in the third inning on doubles by Martin Maldonado and Brantley.
“My job is to get guys out and I didn’t get the percentage of guys out that I needed,” Buehler said when asked if he took any satisfaction out of holding baseball’s highest-scoring team to just one run in six innings.
“There’s not a whole lot to be pleased about.”
Former Dodger farmhand (ever so briefly) Yordan Alvarez put the game away with a two-run home run off Victor Gonzalez in the eighth – the 415-foot laser left the bat at 115 mph.
“It was definitely a lively atmosphere,” Smith said. “That’s the kind of atmosphere you want to play in.
“You could tell fans were still unhappy about all that happened. They were fired up. It made it a fun atmosphere today. Unfortunately, we didn’t win for the fans tonight. We let that one get away.”
#Dodgers fans welcome the Astros. pic.twitter.com/R2MjcFDGyL
— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) August 4, 2021
What 𝑪𝑨𝑵’𝑻 Mookie Betts do?? pic.twitter.com/oiKDoX68fq
— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) August 4, 2021
A 115.1 MPH missile from Yordan! pic.twitter.com/NQstcl5NOw
— MLB (@MLB) August 4, 2021
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