With the Houston Astros lifting attendance restrictions in advance of a nine-game homestand featuring three of the top teams in the majors, the atmosphere at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday was fully charged for the first time since Game 7 of the 2019 World Series.
The Los Angeles Dodgers not only felt the energy pulsating through the stadium, they fed off it while rolling to a 9-2 victory in the opener of a two-game interleague series that extended their winning streak to eight games.
The Dodgers offered varying perspectives on the significance of the contest against the team that defeated them in the 2017 World Series, an Astros organization subsequently revealed to have executed a sign-stealing gambit that season.
“It’s a hard one to answer,” Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw said when asked if the matchup provided additional motivation. “I was kind of thinking about it. Pitching again here for the first time since the 2017 World Series … I don’t know. I don’t really know. It did feel like a more important game, but maybe it was just because it was a full crowd.
“But motivation or not, it felt really good to get the win.”
Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner, who finished 2-for-5 with a two-run homer, said: “They all mean the same. Obviously, the history between the two teams doesn’t go unnoticed but they all mean the same.”
Right-hander Trevor Bauer (5-2, 1.98 ERA) will start Wednesday as the Dodgers pursue a sweep of the brief series.
Bauer, victorious in his most recent start of Friday after allowing one unearned run on two hits and four walks with 11 strikeouts over 6 1/3 innings in a 2-1 win at the San Francisco Giants, has logged at least six innings in nine of 10 starts this season.
He has allowed two or fewer earned runs in nine consecutive starts. Bauer is 8-0 with a 2.90 ERA over nine career starts against the Astros, including a 4-0 record and 1.35 ERA in four starts at Minute Maid Park.
Right-hander Luis Garcia (2-3, 3.38 ERA) will get the start for Houston.
After earning his first career victory by allowing one run on five hits and two walks with five strikeouts over five innings against the Texas Rangers on May 15, Garcia notched a second consecutive win against the Oakland Athletics on May 20, allowing two runs on three hits and two walks with seven strikeouts over five innings.
He has averaged five innings over his last four starts and has not pitched more than 5 2/3 innings in a start. This will mark his first career start against the Dodgers and third interleague appearance.
The Astros were left lamenting their flat performance in front of their largest home crowd this season (34,443) on Tuesday. Dodgers fans were numerous and vocal, but after winning eight of nine games to take over first place in the American League West, Houston has dropped four straight games and fallen a game behind the Oakland Athletics.
“Not too much,” Astros right-hander Zack Greinke said of being concerned about the skid. “The pitching hasn’t been amazing but overall, our team is good. We can’t have a bad week or bad series. We’ve got some tough games coming up.”
Given their struggles and the challenge of facing Bauer, the Astros are aware of what is required to right their ship.
“It was pretty bad all around but I think we’ve just got to play better — offensive, defensively, pitching, everything,” Astros third baseman Alex Bregman said. “Just show up ready to work and get after it.”
–Field Level Media