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Dodgers vs. Astros figures to have something for everybody

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2-game series at Dodger Stadium, with fans

MLB: Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Dodgers and Astros figures to be an exciting and eventful series on many fronts, and for multiple reasons. It’s a matchup of two of the best teams in baseball, which is compelling in its own right, but it’s also the first time the Astros will play in front of fans at Dodger Stadium since news and subsequent punishment for their 2017 sign-stealing scandal was revealed.

Commercials the last few weeks on SportsNet LA have all but urged fans to pack Dodger Stadium to boo Houston on Tuesday and Wednesday. Not that Dodgers fans need much provocation.

During the pandemic-altered 2020 season, when fans weren’t allowed to attend games, a small but loud group of dedicated fans lined the sidewalks on Vin Scully Avenue to boo the Astros bus as it entered the stadium for last September’s two-game series. A plane flew overhead during the series with a “Houston cheats, bang bang” sign.

A Dodgers-heavy crowd this last weekend in Arizona booed and yelled “Cheater” at Josh Reddick, now with the Diamondbacks, for his role on the 2017 Astros.

The fans have not forgotten, and have been waiting for this series for some time. But for the players? There are other things going on.

For one, this series features the Dodgers’ two best pitchers, with Walker Buehler starting Tuesday and newcomer Max Scherzer making his Dodgers debut on Wednesday.

“The roster’s going to be different in a great way, the crowd’s going to be energized, which is what we’re expecting,” manager Dave Roberts said. “We’ve got Walker going, so I know he’s going to be fired up, so it’s going to be a fun homestand.”

Dodgers vs. Astros

Stat Dodgers Astros
Stat Dodgers Astros
Runs scored/gm 5.23 (2nd) 5.47 (1st)
R allowed/gm 3.69 (1st) 4.07 (10th)
Run diff. +165 (1st) +149 (2nd)
HR 147 (5th) 140 (6th)
Average* .252 (9th) .268 (1st)
OBP* .345 (1st) .342 (2nd)
SLG* .439 (6th) .441 (3rd)
wRC+* 116 (2nd) 119 (1st)
BB%* 10.7% (2nd) 9.4% (10th)
K%* 21.7% (7th) 19.3% (1st)
ERA 3.21 (1st) 3.76 (10th)
ERA- 82 (2nd) 90 (10th)
FIP 3.67 (1st) 4.15 (13th)
FIP- 88 (4th) 100 (14th)
K-BB% (pitching) 18.8% (2nd) 15.4% (13th)
MLB ranks | *offensive rate stats are non-pitcher only Source: FanGraphs

The different roster includes Mookie Betts and Corey Seager, neither of whom were active when the Dodgers were last home. Trea Turner, the Dodgers’ other All-Star acquisition on Friday who is currently on the COVID-19 injured list, is expected to join the Dodgers at some point during the homestand, but just not for this series.

Betts saw firsthand the emotions of the rivalry last July, when benches cleared after future mural subject Joe Kelly buzzed Alex Bregman in Houston. The Dodgers won three out of four last year against the Astros, and split a two-game series in Houston this May, the first series this season the Dodgers played with increased stadium capacity.

“I wasn’t here [in 2017], so I don’t have the same emotions that those guys have. But I’m ready for war,” Betts said Sunday. “I’m on the Dodgers, and no matter what my emotions are, I’m going to ride with my team. We’re ready.”

Dodgers vs. Astros features the two highest-scoring teams in MLB this season, and the teams with the two highest run differentials in the majors. Houston is tied for the second-best record in baseball (64-42), with the Dodgers sitting in fourth, a half-game behind (64-43).

This series also features two teams who lost a series last week to the Giants, owners of the best record in MLB.

Lance McCullers Jr. has never allowed a run at Dodger Stadium. That’s only two starts and 6⅓ innings, but he remains unblemished to date in Los Angeles, including setting a World Series record by hitting four batters in Game 7 in 2017, but still escaped with no runs allowed in his seven-out start.

The right-hander starts on Tuesday, having allowed four runs in each of his last two starts. He also struck out eight in both games, and on the season owns a 3.23 ERA and 3.39 FIP in his 17 starts.

Jake Odorizzi on the season has a 4,30 ERA, but after missing a month with a pronator muscle strain in his right arm, he has a 3.42 ERA in 11 games since. He starts Wednesday, opposite the Dodgers debut of Scherzer.

“We all know the history [of Dodgers-Astros], but for that to be my first experience here, that’s going to be nuts,” Scherzer told Kirsten Watson on SportsNet LA on Sunday. “I don’t even know what that atmosphere’s going to be like.”

Schedule note

Wednesday’s game starts a half-hour earlier because it’s a travel day for the Astros, who play at home on Thursday. Collective bargaining agreement rules mandate that for getaway games, any flight time (Los Angeles to Houston deemed at two hours, 45 minutes per the CBA) that exceeds 2½ hours be subtracted from 7 p.m., so in this case the latest Wednesday’s game could have been scheduled is 6:45 p.m.

Dodgers vs. Astros

  • Tuesday, 7:10 p.m.: Walker Buehler vs. Lance McCullers Jr. (SportsNet LA)
  • Wednesday, 6:40 p.m.: Max Scherzer vs. Jake Odorizzi (SportsNet LA)