The Astros and Dodgers will meet in Chavez Ravine starting Tuesday for a two-game series, an interleague matchup that will bring a lot of intrigue with it. Between past issues that created tension between these two teams to Max Scherzer’s upcoming Dodgers debut on Wednesday, there are myriad reasons to tune in. MLB.com suggested reporters Brian McTaggart and Juan Toribio to discuss all aspects.
Alyson Footer, Moderator / Editor: Let’s start with the obvious topic. This will be the first time the Astros have played in front of fans at Dodger Stadium since the details of the shield theft plan became known. Last year fans queued in the parking lot to, how shall we say, “greet” the Astros team bus. But they were also allowed to be that close to the stadium. How do you think the crowd will get the Astros this time?
Brian McTaggart, Astros Beat reporter: I think it will be the most hostile environment the Astros still play in. Yankee Stadium in May was definitely a place where the Astros were reminded at every turn of the shield theft scandal – the Astros know how they feel. As I said, I can’t wait.
Juan Toribio, Dodgers Beat reporter: It gets pretty wild there. Both games are expected to sell out and this is what these fans have been waiting for a couple of years. In addition, Max Scherzer will be making his team debut on Wednesday, that’s going to be crazy.
I have a question for you, tags, how do you think it compares to this show in NY? Do the Astros expect it to get worse?
McTaggart: Yes they are. The crowd in New York was very loud and very angry, but Yankee Stadium was not yet fully occupied. I think it was maybe half that, so we’re talking 55,000 at Dodger Stadium. When I’m an Astros fan in LA I watch this on TV.
Is there any excitement in LA for that?
Toribio: Certainly. I don’t think it’s going to be called the greatest game ever or anything, but everyone is excited to see Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa and the rest of these guys be greeted. I went to the supermarket today and heard people talk about it. I also think a lot of the former Dodger players on this team are really excited to see what’s going on and how the fans will react. It won’t be a graduation for these guys, but booing and shouting “cheaters” for three hours will help these people heal a little.
Josh Reddick already got a small piece of it this year. Now it’s time for the rest of them.
McTaggart: Although there were no fans in the stands for most of the past year, the consequences of the sign theft scandal on the field were clear. This year I think they’ll be feeding on it. Altuve met a game-winning homer in the eighth inning at Yankee Stadium on May 6 and loved every second of it. He hit a grand slam in San Francisco over the weekend while fans were yelling at him. He and Correa took off most of the heat, in part because Alex Bregman has been out for nearly two months. Yuli Gurriel gets it too, but not that bad. The only other player on the team from 2017 is Lance McCullers Jr.
If they boo off Josh Reddick who plays for the D-Backs, yeah, it gets pretty intense for those with “Astros” on their shirts. I almost feel like this will be the final hurdle the Astros face in terms of shield theft fallout. Most of the other cities have spoken up, and the further we get away and the Astros have fewer players on the team, it will fade.
They’re still booed while on the Astros, but they’ve gotten through almost every town in the AL now and everyone has their say. You haven’t been to Kansas City yet, but I don’t think these nice people will care too much.
Footer: Are there any predictions as to whether there will be a fight between the players on the field like last year? Any high and tight fastballs?
McTaggart: There might be a ballyhoo in the field if you will. Maybe some fool.
Toribio: I really don’t think so. They were pretty polite when they met in Houston, but who knows, maybe they feed on the intensity of the crowd. But I think the Dodgers focus is on beating a really good team. After all, they’re three games back in the division.
McTaggart: I don’t think the Astros want any of this, but I don’t think they will either. I think Joe Kelly, who wasn’t even with the Dodgers in 2017, was the one who instigated it in Houston last year.
Toribio: I think it’s worth noting that Mookie Betts, who wasn’t on any of these teams, said he was “ready to go to war” for his teammates.
McTaggart: Yes, we have to remember that these are two of the best teams in baseball. They have almost identical records. This should be a great two game series, and the Scherzer angle is more impactful. The Astros haven’t faced him since the World Series in 2019.
Footer: That’s the other part of the equation, of course – this is just a great duel between two high performing teams with a real chance to meet again in the World Series. And both strengthened their teams at the deadline, which certainly breathed some life into the clubhouses. As you mentioned earlier, the second game will be Max Scherzer’s Dodgers debut. What can we expect from these two games?
Toribio: Just a lot of talent in the field. The Dodgers get healthier, and they throw out Walker Buehler – who has a chance to win a Cy Young now that Jacob deGrom is injured – and then Scherzer. And we already know what this Astros offensive can do. I can barely wait for it.
McTaggart: The Astros are so far 3: 3 on a tough road trip to Seattle and San Francisco. Their starting pitching stuttered a bit, but they’ve spruced up their bullpen massively over the past week and still have the best offense in baseball, even without Bregman. Houston has played well against good teams this year too, so they are definitely up to the opportunity.
And Dodgers fans will still cheer Dusty Baker, right?
Footer: Juan, as far as I can tell, Dave Roberts has moved away from all of the 2017 stuff for the most part. Do you think he set a tone in the clubhouse to have the players do the same?
Toribio: I think so. I mean, it’s been four years and you ended up winning a World Series. I think the bad feelings are still there, it’s hard not to have one, but I don’t think there is the same hatred that was there before. And as Tags mentioned, this Houston squad looks very different from the one they faced in 2017.
I think this series is more for the fans than the players.
Footer: I can see that things are getting a little restless in the stands.
McTaggart: Oh sure, we had fights in the stands earlier this year when the Dodgers were in Houston.
It’s strange the way Michael Brantley and Kyle Tucker are booed and called cheaters, but in 2017 they were nowhere to be seen. I think Dodgers fans are going to boo anyone whether they were 17 on the team or not.
Footer: Revisionist history is the best kind of story!
Juan, it seems like the Dodgers, as good as they are, haven’t played their best baseball yet. Most of us give them the division title after the deadline they just had. Do you see her cry
Toribio: I think they definitely have the knack for it, and they’ll only get more dangerous when Trea Turner joins the team, but I think Betts said it best on Sunday – they just haven’t played with great urgency this season. And will they just be able to flip a switch and play perfect baseball for two months? We will see.
Footer: Tags, the Astros have been without Bregman for a long time, had a lot of issues with the bullpen that may have been fixed with the movements they made and are in the driver’s seat in the division. Are you a little surprised that they were so good?
McTaggart: Yes, it does. The go-ahead was a strength, although the past few weeks may have raised concerns. Framber Valdez is not as hot as he is, Jake Odorizzi is a hit-and-miss and Zack Greinke has made a bad appearance. The Astros made relief their priority on the deadline for good reason. The Astros expected Bregman back this week – swapping out infielder Abraham Toro – but Bregman had a setback in his rehab so infield depth is now an issue.
The Astros are 17-14 since their 11-game winning streak on June 26th. This is still a good baseball, but not quite the same clip they were on for a while.
Footer: Brave forecast time – the number of beach balls that find their way onto the field?
McTaggart: If only beach balls come from the stands onto the field, that’s positive for the Astros. But I guess 2,017.
Just save me a dodger dog, Juan.
Toribio: They are all yours.