LOS ANGELES -- The last time the Dodgers and Astros played in front of a packed house at Dodger Stadium, Jose Altuve threw Corey Seager out at first in Game 7 of the 2017 World Series, which led to Charlie Morton and Brian McCann getting mobbed on the mound.
That was the last scene of an epic World Series between the two teams that went the distance and one that provided two of the best games in the history of the Fall Classic. Years later, however, we found out that the last out in Game 7 was far from the last scene.
After an investigation, Commissioner Rob Manfred announced that the Astros illegally stole signs during the 2017 regular season and postseason and in parts of the ‘18 regular season. The form of sign stealing that was used the most by the Astros was banging on trash cans to relay whether the upcoming pitch was a breaking ball or a fastball.
Once the full report came out, it all started to make sense for the Dodgers. It started to make sense why Clayton Kershaw got just one swing and miss on 51 sliders/curveballs, two pitches that will make him a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Maybe Yu Darvish wasn’t tipping, like it was said after the Game 7 loss. Maybe it should’ve been a Dodgers pitcher getting mobbed on the mound, not Morton.
“Those guys were cheating for three years,” Bellinger said during Spring Training last year. “I think what people don’t realize is Altuve stole an MVP from [Aaron] Judge in ‘17. Everyone knows they stole the ring from us. But it’s over.”
We’ll never know how the World Series would’ve turned out, and we don’t necessarily know the situations or games in which the Astros used their system the most, and to what extent. But one thing that is certain is that Dodger Stadium will look a lot different than it did nearly four years ago.
“Probably not good,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said, when asked what he expects the reception to be like at Dodger Stadium. “It wasn’t bad [in San Francisco], but I’m sure it’s going to be a lot more hostile when we get to L.A. so we just got to deal with it. You’re not really worried about the reception that we’re going to get. You just got to go out there and play ball.”
The two teams met last season at Dodger Stadium and Minute Maid Park, but not having fans in the stands certainly diluted the first meetings between the teams since the 2017 World Series. Though not playing in front of fans didn’t stop Joe Kelly from letting Carlos Correa know exactly how he felt about him and his team.
This year, the Dodgers are expecting capacity crowds for the two-game set. It’s also expected to be the most hostile environment the Astros have played in over the past two seasons, and that includes a raucous Yankee Stadium earlier this season.
“I wasn’t here, so I don’t have the same emotions that these guys have,” said Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts. “But I’m ready for war. I’m on the Dodgers. No matter what my emotions are, I’ve got to ride with my team. We’re ready.”
Though emotions will certainly be high, the product on the field should also give the rivalry an edge. The Astros have the best offense in baseball, and the Dodgers have one of the best pitching staffs in the Majors. L.A. will have Cy Young hopeful Walker Buehler on the mound, and newly acquired Max Scherzer makes his team debut on Wednesday.
But aside from Buehler and Scherzer, the Astros will have to deal with more than 50,000 fans. They’ve been waiting for this moment for years.
“The crowd’s going to be energized, which we’re expecting, we’re anticipating,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “We’ve got Walker going, and I know he’s going to be fired up. It’s going to be a fun homestand.”