LOS ANGELES — The Astros were whooping it up on the Dodgers’ field again, just like they did after winning Game 7 of the 2017 World Series.
In Houston’s first visit since being punished for cheating en route to that infamous championship, the Astros rallied with five runs for a 7-5 victory under smoky skies on Saturday night as the Dodgers blew a three-run lead in the ninth.
“That was the win of the year,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “Hopefully, we look back on this as the turning point of our season.”
The Dodgers own the best record in baseball at 32-13. The Astros, on the other hand, are 7-17 on the road after coming in with losses in eight of their previous nine games.
“Things have been very tough, like we haven’t had a whole bunch of breaks. We kind of made our breaks today,” Baker said. “If we win these two games, the rest of the road trip seems like it doesn’t matter.”
The Astros knocked closer Kenley Jansen (3-1) around, getting to him on four consecutive hits without an out.
“Just a nightmare, man. This feels terrible,” Jansen said. “I’m ahead of the count on everyone and I just didn’t execute well.”
Carlos Correa and Aledmys Diaz singled, Josh Reddick hit a two-run double and Martin Maldonado added another single. George Springer then grounded into a fielder’s choice to third baseman Max Muncy, who committed an error while Reddick scored to tie the game at 5.
Alex Bregman followed with a single to centre that made it 6-5. Bregman scored on Yuri Gurriel’s sacrifice fly to centre off Adam Kolarek for a 7-5 lead.
“For us to be down to the best team in baseball, but for us to string together some at-bats, to come back, to not only actually tie the game, but take the lead and hold it off, was huge for us,” Spring said, “especially after a tough trip.”
Josh James (1-0) got the victory with 1 1/3 innings of relief. Ryan Pressly earned his ninth save.
The game lacked the fiery emotion of the teams’ matchup on July 29. But there were multiple reminders that Dodger fans haven’t forgotten the Astros’ cheating scandal from their 2017 championship. Houston also visited Dodger Stadium in 2018, but that was before Houston’s cheating scheme was revealed.
A plane towed a banner reading “Houston Cheats Bang Bang” over the stadium.
Fans aren’t allowed inside this season because of the coronavirus, but a group of Dodger supporters greeted the Astros’ bus as it pulled in. They shook large plastic and metal garbage cans in the air, a reference to Houston’s sign-stealing scheme that involved signalling pitches by banging on garbage cans.
“I loved it,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said before the game. “They have every right to do whatever they feel to express their feelings. Just shows the passion that Dodger fans have.”
Pitcher Joe Kelly honked in support as he drove his black Porsche into the stadium.
The stadium organist got into the act, too. Dieter Ruehle played “Lyin’ Eyes,” by the Eagles; “The Sign,” by Ace of Base; “Bangin’ on a Trash Can (Think Big),” by Doug; and “Bang Your Head” by Quiet Riot.
The last time the teams met, Kelly was suspended for throwing pitches that nearly hit multiple Astros batters before he taunted Correa with a pouting expression while walking off the field after the Astros’ slugger struck out. Kelly’s curled lip has been immortalized in a spray-painted wall mural by an artist in Los Angeles. Kelly is currently serving a five-game suspension.
Chris Taylor and Kike Hernandez slugged back-to-back homers for the Dodgers.
Taylor blasted a two-run shot into the right-field pavilion with two outs in the second, giving Los Angeles a 2-1 lead. Hernandez followed with a solo shot to nearly the same spot in right, the third time the Dodgers have homered back-to-back this season.
Corey Seager tripled off the wall in left-centre and scored on AJ Pollock’s sacrifice fly in the third.
Seager added a two-out RBI single in the fifth that scored Mookie Betts, who walked and took second on a wild pitch by Framber Valdez.
“We just didn’t finish it out,” Roberts said.
Houston’s other runs came on Gurriel’s RBI single in the first and his fielder’s choice grounder to second in the eighth.
Valdez gave up five runs and five hits in five innings. The left-hander struck out seven and walked one.
Julio Urias started for the Dodgers, allowing one run and three hits in six innings. He struck out three and walked four.
Both teams did their pre-game workouts inside to limit exposure to the smoke from a nearby wildfire that has been choking the skies over Los Angeles for a week. The scenic view of the San Gabriel Mountains beyond the stadium’s outfield was obliterated.
Astros: RHP Justin Verlander (right forearm strain) was due to throw Saturday and next time will face live hitting. … 2B Jose Altuve (right knee sprain) hit in the batting cage and planned to test his running on the field. He could return next week at home. … LHP Blake Taylor (left elbow soreness) could return next week. … RHP Lance McCullers Jr. (neck nerve irritation) is waiting for his condition to calm down so he can return.
Dodgers: RHP Dustin May, who took a line drive off his left foot in Arizona, had a CT scan that revealed a contusion but no fracture. The team has made no decision on either his next start or a possible IL stint. … RHP Walker Buehler (right hand blister) has played catch with the blister covered. … 3B Justin Turner (left hamstring strain) will face live hitting Sunday and could return next week on the road trip. … RHP Pedro Baez (right groin strain) was activated and worked in relief.
Astros: RHP Zack Greinke (3-1, 3.27 ERA) is coming off his first loss of the season at Oakland. He gave up a season-high four runs and seven hits over six innings.
Dodgers: It will be a bullpen game with four or five pitchers used.