LOS ANGELES – Inflatable gray trash cans adorned Dodger Stadium Tuesday night, bouncing across the crowded seating sections like they were beach balls. A handful of them made it onto the field, as did some of the Houston Astros’ foul balls. When an announcer made a public announcement threatening to throw away fans who threw objects, the sold-out 52,692 spectators booed – the largest contingent at a Major League game all year round. Every time Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa came up for a punch, the crowd booed significantly louder and louder, with the relentless intensity one would expect from at least 19 months of pent-up aggression.
The Los Angeles Dodgers ultimately couldn’t justify the intensity. They racked up just five hits against Lance McCullers Jr. and a trio of Astros relievers, and lost 3-0 in one of their most anticipated matchups of the season – but the message from their fans resonated nonetheless.
“It was a playoff atmosphere,” said Astros manager and former Dodgers outfielder Dusty Baker. “These fans are in love with the Dodgers. I was here and they actually made Dodger Blue bleed. Boy, it was exciting. It doesn’t often happen that I would like to play in a game because I’m so far from it to play, but this is a game I would have loved to play. “
A handful of inflatable trash cans were among the items thrown onto the field from the stands of Dodger Stadium as LA hosted the Astros Tuesday night. Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
The crowd at Dodger Stadium broke out when Mookie Betts, playing second base as part of a hip precaution, made a full dive in the fifth inning. It came to life again when Walker Bühler stranded a runner and kept a 1-0 deficit to complete six innings for the 21st time in 22 starts of the season. It gasped as Cody Bellinger, battling his way through a major league low batting average of 0.165, lifted a deep drive into midfield that resulted in a flyout. It filled the air with a mixture of cheers and boos as Altuve mistreated a flip on the fourth and when he was picked up on the seventh. And it let out a collective sigh as the finale was taped at the end of the ninth.
The Astros improved to a 65-42 best in the American League while the Dodgers fell to 64-44, 3 1/2 games back from the San Francisco Giants for first place in the National League West.
“They put up with the noise, which is an insider tip for our fans,” said Buehler after lowering his ERA to 2.16. “Of course there have been a few interruptions in the game, just stuff on the field. We get it. It’s an interesting thing because I think the emotions are warranted and I think we’re not going to do much to make that happen to change.” But certainly a different atmosphere and feeling than most baseball games. “
The Astros ‘sign-stealing practices during their 2017 championship-winning season – in which the catchers’ signs were deciphered via a special monitor and conveyed to the thugs by tapping a trash can – were revealed by The Athletic in November 2019 and confirmed by The Major League Baseball Investigation in January 2020. Three acting managers – AJ Hinch, Alex Cora and Carlos Beltran – were then dismissed, as well as Astros managing director Jeff Luhnow. But the players were not punished; MLB granted immunity in exchange for their testimony.
Dodgers players who lost to these Astros in seven World Series games were downright angry. Her fans shared the anger, and it took them until Tuesday night to fully express it.
The Dodgers played the Astros four times the following season, shortened by COVID-19, but fans were not allowed to enter the stands. When the two teams met earlier this season, Houston’s Minute Maid Park served as the backdrop. A large line-up of Dodgers fans appeared for these games in late May. Others waited outside the gates of Dodger Stadium with signs and trash cans and megaphones for the Astros bus to roll through in September and October 2020. It was part of the setup for Tuesday’s crescendo.
“The anger is still there, mostly because nothing happened to the players – no bans, generally a small fine on the organization because that’s all Rob Manfred was allowed to do,” said Clint Pasillas, editor-in-chief of Dodgers Nation, one popular website for the fans of the team. “And the way the players dealt with it – I think that annoyed the fans and us personally. Altuve, Carlos Correa – how they dealt with it, how they walked around with it. “That bravery, like you’ve done something special when the numbers say you didn’t.”
In the parking lot of the Dodger Stadium, the fans were handed out leaflets informing them of specific anti-astro chants. The fans wore T-shirts that immortalized Joe Kelly – the savior of the Dodgers, who threw near Correa’s head, made a pout on the way back to the dugout and therefore became a cult hero – and their opponents the “Trashstro . “Some even disguised themselves as” Oscar the Grouch “, the character from Sesame Street who is known to live in a garbage can. Hundreds of others did without orange foam stars.
The loud boos for Altuve and Correa began when they sat down in the batter’s box for a pre-game round of punching practice approximately 90 minutes before the first pitch. They continued as they stepped back on the field about an hour later to stretch and never slack off during their combined nine record appearances.
“There was a lot of booing, of course, but I liked it,” said McCullers, one of five current Astros who were on the team in 2017. “I enjoyed it.”
But Dodgers catcher Will Smith admitted that all the interruptions in action may have thrown Buehler out of rhythm as baseballs and trash cans fell on the field. Astros reliever Ryne Stanek – rescued in the absence of Ryan Pressly, who is on paternity leave – said fans sitting near the bullpen in the right field hurled two-thirds of “essentially full beers at people for half an inning ”. on the way through the game.
The Astros held out anyway. They have been mocked throughout this season – most notably at Yankee Stadium, Dodger Stadium, and Angel Stadium, the latter of which saw a real trash can put on the warning trail – and they still manage to come first.
“It takes a special player to put on an Astros jersey,” said Astros rescuer Blake Taylor. “If you’re not ready to stand up to the criticism you get in every stadium we go into, you can’t handle it – it’s tough. It is difficult to ask a lot of people we have now, they are all in. They know they’re not the only ones going through this. Every single person in this clubhouse gets booed every time we go out on the field and is simply called a “cheater” and things like that. So at the end of the day we’re just one big family and we have our backs no matter what happens.”