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A flock of people lined up outside Dodger Stadium’s Gate A, on the corner of Stadium Way and Vin Scully Avenue, to greet the Houston Astros on Saturday. It was the closest the peeved fans could come to jeering them this season. So, they gathered carrying signs and trash cans to welcome the Astros in their first visit to Dodger Stadium since their cheating scheme in 2017 was exposed.
Finally, the big red bus transporting the villains sped by them, turning right into the entrance. They had 10 seconds and they didn’t waste them. They yelled and they banged. Later, they cheered when Joe Kelly, Dodgers reliever and cult hero, pulled up and slowly entered the gate. He honked for his admirers and gave them a thumbs up. The home team was appreciative.
“I loved it. I loved it,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “I think they have every right to do whatever they feel to express their feelings and I thought it was great.”
Inside the ballpark, fans were spared from witnessing Kenley Jansen blow a three-run lead in the ninth inning in a 7-5 loss.
Jansen exited after the Astros scored four runs on five hits and an error by third baseman Max Muncy. The closer was ultimately charged with five runs, four earned — doubling the number of earned runs he allowed in his first 20 appearances this season. He threw 21 pitches and didn’t record an out as the Astros beat the Dodgers (32-14) for the first time in three tries this season.
“Just a nightmare, man,” Jansen said. “Just making pitches and then I can’t execute to put them way. It’s just frustrating.”
The air quality at Dodger Stadium was so poor Saturday because of surrounding wildfires that the Dodgers canceled all pregame on-field activities, including batting practice, besides Kelly’s one-inning simulated game.
Kelly, coincidentally, is serving a five-game suspension for throwing at Astros hitters and sparking a benches-clearing brouhaha in the clubs’ first meeting in Houston on July 28.
Saturday’s encounter, the first of a two-game set, didn’t feature any of those fireworks. Houston’s lineup was announced to background music and nothing else.
The only visible sign of tension between the sides flew a few hundred feet overhead before the game.
“HOUSTON CHEATS BANG BANG,” a banner attached to an airplane read. At least one other flyover designed to taunt the visitors was scheduled, but it was canceled because of the low visibility. At ground level, the stadium DJ and organist took turns taking subtle shots at the Astros with different songs. James Brown’s “Payback,” Ace of Base’s “The Sign,” The Eagles’ “Lyin’ Eyes” were included in the themed soundtrack.
Otherwise, the scene was ordinary by 2020 standards. The two teams played in an empty ballpark with fake crowd noise piped in two weeks and a day before the end of a 60-game regular season. The Dodgers have been the superior team – they own the best record in the majors while the Astros are clawing for just a playoff spot — and looked the part for the game’s first eight innings.
Julio Urías gave up a double to the game’s first batter — George Springer — and allowed him to score on Yuli Gurriel’s two-out single later in the inning. It was the only damage Houston inflicted on the left-hander as Urías delivered one of his best starts of the season.
May receives good news
The Dodgers avoided a potential disaster when a CT scan didn’t show a fracture in Dustin May’s foot. According to Roberts, they’re treating the injury as a “contusion” and May as “day-to-day.” He added the team hasn’t decided if May will be placed on the injured list. May suffered the injury when a comebacker bounced off the foot in the first inning of his start against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday. He was removed after the inning.
The Dodgers activated Pedro Báez (groin) from the injured list and optioned May. … Roberts said “early next week” is the earliest Justin Turner (hamstring) will come off the IL. … The Dodgers will go with a bullpen game in Sunday’s finale of the two-game set against Houston.
Three takeaways on the Dodgers
1.) The Dodgers have lost four of their last six games after losing four of their previous 19. They have had as many losing streaks in the last week as they had in the season’s first nine weeks.
2.) Julio Urías tied Clayton Kershaw for the team lead in most starts of at least six innings this season with four. The 96 pitches he threw were his most in an outing since Aug. 21, 2016.
3.) Cody Bellinger went one for four with two strikeouts to extend his slump. The reigning MVP is six for 45 with nine walks and eight strikeouts over his last 12 games, lowering his batting average from .234 to .212.