Two of the best teams in baseball will meet Tuesday in a potential World Series preview, and the subplot figures to carry at least as much intrigue, if not more.
The Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros will match up for a second consecutive season since the Astros’ 2017 cheating scandal was unearthed, although games Tuesday and Wednesday at Los Angeles will have a far different feel than the meetings in 2020 possessed.
With fans in the stands this time around, the Dodgers’ faithful will get a chance to show the Astros how they really feel about 2017, when Houston’s use of electronic means to steal opponents’ pitching signs ultimately contributed to a championship. That title came at the expense of the Dodgers, who lost the 2017 World Series in seven games.
When the teams met at Los Angeles last September, angry Dodgers fans greeted the Astros’ bus with signs and colorful salutes, but the Dodger Stadium stands were eerily quiet.
“You’re not really worried about the reception that we’re going to get,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “You’ve just got to go out there and play ball.”
The teams also met at Houston last season in a series that became known for the errant pitches from Dodgers right-hander Joe Kelly and the pouty face he displayed toward Carlos Correa after a strikeout. Los Angeles won three of the four games between the teams last season.
Winners of two consecutive games at Arizona last weekend, the Dodgers are just 6-8 since July 18 and know that a better brand of baseball is needed.
That could come with the recent return from the injured list of Corey Seager and Mookie Betts as well as the arrival of trade acquisitions Max Scherzer, Trea Turner and Danny Duffy.
“It’s kind of hard to just turn it on right now,” Betts said, “so I think we’ve got to do a better job of playing with some more urgency. I think that’s what we did really good last year and we haven’t done this year.”
Before Scherzer makes his Dodgers debut Wednesday, the club will send right-hander Walker Buehler (11-1, 2.19 ERA) to the mound Tuesday. The National League Pitcher of the Month for July is 1-0 lifetime against Houston in two starts with a 4.00 ERA.
Buehler finished 3-0 with a 1.67 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 32 1/3 innings over five starts last month.
The Astros enter after dropping consecutive games at San Francisco over the weekend. That hiccup came after an 8-2 run in which Houston won series against the Cleveland Indians, Texas Rangers and Seattle Mariners.
Lance McCullers Jr. (8-2, 3.23 ERA) will pitch for Houston on Tuesday. He has a 1.64 ERA in 11 regular-season innings against the Dodgers, and he went 1-0 with a 3.52 in two starts against Los Angeles during the 2017 World Series.
Although their trade-deadline moves were not as high profile as the Dodgers’, the Astros did address a need by acquiring relievers Kendall Graveman, Phil Maton, Rafael Montero and former Dodger Yimi Garcia. All four pitched well in their Houston debuts last weekend.
“I think we have a great team that can go out there and win the World Series this year,” Correa said. “We truly believe it. The group of talent that we have — our lineup, our starting rotation, our bullpen — I’m happy with where we’re at right now.”
–Field Level Media