Max Scherzer is used to the big stage. The three-time Cy Young Award winner has seen just about everything in baseball, and has designs on even bigger games this year. But Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium provided an electric atmosphere just the same, and Scherzer was up to the task in the Dodgers’ 7-5 win over the Astros.
“I understand why we’re here. I understand we have a great team, and the fans should feel that way,” Scherzer said Wednesday. “But as a player, you can only control what you can control. You can’t worry about other people’s expectations. All I can do is go out there and pitch my game.”
Scherzer was electric, striking out 10 in seven innings, allowing only a pair of runs. He played to the crowd by striking out Jose Altuve three times in three at-bats, then Scherzer finished off his night by getting pinch-hitter Chas McCormick swinging.
That earned a curtain call from the Dodger Stadium faithful for Scherzer, who struck out 10 or more for the fourth time this season, and the 106th such game of his career, counting the regular season and postseason combined.
“It was awesome. It was fantastic. From the moment I got to the ballpark, you could just see the level of anticipation from the guys,” manager Dave Roberts. “Just the intensity, it was so much fun. It was really cool to see the crowd just smell it, and want him to finish that seventh inning.”
He’s the sixth different Dodgers pitcher to strike out double digits in a game this season, though only three are active. That’s a big reason why Scherzer is here, helping to fortify a rotation that needs all the help it can get.
Scherzer’s been with the Dodgers all of five days, and he’s already got an accurate lay of the land for a team that’s 3½ games out of first place in the National League West.
“I’m glad I’m part of an organization that wants to win and has their sights on the ultimate prize. I mean, that’s what we play the game for, is to do that,” he said on Tuesday. “It’s fun to join these guys, because we have a great chance to win. But it’s going to take a lot of work to get there. Nothing is assured yet.”
Timing is everything, and had Scherzer had this kind of game on Tuesday he would have been the hard-luck loser as the Dodgers were shut out. But on Wednesday, the home team had no trouble scoring.
Mookie Betts, the new second baseman acquired this week, led off the first with a home run, then hit another one in the second inning. He took notice of the enlivened crowd.
“It’s probably one of the best atmospheres I’ve played in. It was amazing to be a part of,” Betts said. “Definitely, I will put that in my memory bank.”
In between, Will Smith cashed in a pair of runners on base with a three-run homer of his own, giving him 19 RBI in 14 games since the All-Star break.
AJ Pollock added a two-run shot in the third inning, the fourth home run against Astros starter Jake Odorizzi in three innings. The veteran right-hander allowed three homers in his first start of the season, then allowed only two over his next 10 games. But in his last three starts, Odorizzi was taken deep eight times.
All those runs provided enough cushion to withstand home runs against relievers Joe Kelly and Kenley Jansen in the final two frames. But in the end, this was Scherzer’s night.
Trea Turner is expected to be in Los Angeles at some point this weekend, though his activation date off the COVID-19 injured list is still to be determined. Betts, who started the last three games at second base, said he’d be back in right field when Turner joins the team.
“I enjoyed my time at second base,” Betts said. “Now Trea is coming, so I’ll back in the outfield then.”
Home runs: Mookie Betts 2 (17), Will Smith (15), AJ Pollock (14); Michael Brantley (7), Carlos Correa (17), Kyle Tucker (21)
WP — Max Scherzer (9-4): 7 IP, 5 hits, 2 runs, 1 walk, 10 strikeouts
LP — Jake Odorizzi (4-6): 3 IP, 6 hits, 7 runs (6 earned), 2 walks, 3 strikeouts
The Dodgers enjoy the rare home off day on Thursday, followed by the Angels coming to town for the weekend. David Price starts Friday night’s series opener (7:10 p.m.; SportsNet LA, MLB Network), against left-hander Patrick Sandoval for the team from Anaheim.