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Column: Astros could break Dodgers’ fans hearts again

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Carlos Correa touched home plate and pointed to the heavens, as if there was a higher power deranged enough to side with the Houston Astros. This was after cupping his hand by his ear as he rounded third base in the empty stadium.

Los Angeles should consider itself warned.

There is no justice. There is no karma. And the trash-talking, finger-pointing, tone-deaf Correa could soon be coming to prime-time.

Behind two home runs by baseball’s clown prince, the thieves from Houston stole a 10-5 victory from the Oakland Athletics in Game 1 of their American League Division Series.

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Mercifully, the majority of Southern California was spared from watching Correa and his teammates celebrate on the visiting bench at Dodger Stadium as if it were 2017 again. With broadcasters prioritizing the series between the New York Yankees and Tampa Bay Rays, the Astros and A’s were relegated to a 1 p.m. start.

Houston Astros' Carlos Correa celebrates after hitting a home run against the Oakland Athletics on Monday at Dodger Stadium.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

Claiming two more victories over the A’s and advancing to the AL Championship Series would change that. The Astros would be promoted to a later time slot, which could make them harder for Angelenos to avoid — or, depending on the perspective, easier to hate-watch.

Outside their ever-affable rent-a-manager, Dusty Baker, there’s nothing likeable about these Astros.

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While they initially apologized for stealing signs during a 2017 season in which they defeated the Dodgers to win their only World Series in franchise history, they soon turned defensive. When Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger remarked that Jose Altuve stole an MVP award from Aaron Judge, Correa told him to “shut the f— up” because he was unfamiliar with the details of the Astros’ scheme. Never mind that Correa and the Astros refused to divulge specifics of how they cheated. Correa’s outburst was so outrageous that it offended even former Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish, who is about as forgiving a soul as there is in the sport.

That side of Correa emerged again after a wild-card series in which the Astros defeated the Minnesota Twins, who finished the pandemic-shortened season with the AL’s second-best record.

“I know a lot of people are mad,” Correa told reporters. “I know a lot of people don’t want to see us here. But what are they going to say now?”

Houston Astros' Carlos Correa celebrates with George Springer.
Houston’s Carlos Correa, left, celebrates with George Springer after they defeated the Oakland Athletics on Monday at Dodger Stadium.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)
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Well, they could say the Astros still deserve to be stripped of their World Series championship. Or they could point out how the Astros were a sub-.500 team in the pandemic-shortened regular season and wouldn’t be in these playoffs if the sport’s shamelessly greedy owners hadn’t expanded the postseason field.

A couple of days before the start of this division series, Astros outfielder Josh Reddick added to the banter.

Asked about the Dodgers fans who taunted them as their bus drove into Dodger Stadium for the first game of a two-game series last month, Reddick playfully replied, “I thought there’d be more. I was kind of disappointed. There wasn’t enough out there. I know I’m stirring that pot, but when I got here, I had my camera out, ready to record and see what was going on. I was kind of disappointed with the number that was out there.”

The Astros sounded as if they were embracing their roles as villains. But any misconceptions about what they overcame to reach this stage of the postseason was clarified by a leading authority on their mind-set: their manager.

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The Houston Astros outslug the Oakland Athletics 10-5 while the New York Yankees powered their way to a 9-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays in Game 1 of their ALDS.

Asked how the Astros responded to the widespread backlash in the wake of the scandal, Baker said, “I don’t know.”

He explained, “It’s hard to say how you handled it because there weren’t any fans in the stands.”

In other words, they were never truly punished, a reality that was obvious on Monday. As despised as they are in this market, there were no fans gathered outside of the exclusive hotel they are sharing with the A’s. There were also no fans to disturb their morning commute to Dodger Stadium. Inside the ballpark, there were 11,000 cardboard cutouts of Dodgers fans, but they didn’t make any noise. If anything, the stadium sheltered the Astros from vitriol outside.

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The welcoming environment offered the Astros a place to unlock their power. Fourth-inning home runs by Alex Bregman and Correa forced an early departure by A’s starter Chris Bassitt. Correa homered again in the seventh inning.

The Supreme Court upheld a ruling that all minor leaguers who played in California, Arizona and Florida are eligible to sue MLB for back wages.

Baker credited hitting coach Alex Cintron for the resurgence of Correa, who batted an underwhelming .264 with five home runs in the regular season. Correa now has 14 home runs in 53 postseason games.

“I love October baseball,” Correa said. “I want to be there. I want to be in tough spots.”

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So get used to this. Prepare for the worst. The Astros are hitting like they did when they cheated. They could break this city’s heart again.


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