Max Scherzer shines in debut, Mookie Betts hits two homers in Dodgers’ win over Astros
A sellout crowd of 52,724 in Dodger Stadium booed Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa, the only two players from Houston’s 2017 cheating championship team in the lineup for the finale of a two-game series, mercilessly again Wednesday night.
But fans seemed as amped up for pitcher Max Scherzer’s Dodgers debut as they were to vent their frustrations on the Astros, and the three-time Cy Young Award winner clearly fed off that emotion and adrenaline.
Making his first start after Friday’s trade from the Washington Nationals, Scherzer gave up two earned runs and five hits in seven innings, struck out 10 and walked one, and the Dodgers hit four homers — two by Mookie Betts — in a 7-5 win over the Astros.
“It was awesome, it was fantastic,” Manager Dave Roberts said of Scherzer. “From the moment we got to the ballpark, you could feel that anticipation from our guys. The buzz in the crowd from the first pitch, him taking the mound for the first time … he delivered. 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.”
Scherzer struck out Altuve three times and Correa once, each whiff eliciting roars from fans who believe the Astros stole that 2017 title from the Dodgers, who lost a seven-game World Series to Houston.
The Dodgers reach terms with free-agent pitcher Cole Hamels, who could provide rotation depth if Clayton Kershaw is slow to recover from a sore elbow.
Fans rose to their feet for Scherzer’s final at-bat, and they erupted when the right-hander blew a 96-mph fastball — his 109th pitch of the night — past pinch-hitter Chas McCormick for strike three to end the seventh.
The average velocity of Scherzer’s four-seam fastball, a pitch he threw 55 times Wednesday night, was 95.2 mph, above his season average of 94.2 mph.
“Because my arm felt good, because the atmosphere was there, I felt my fastball had a little extra giddy-up tonight,” said Scherzer, who missed a start in late July because of a minor triceps injury.
“You use it to your advantage, but velocity is not the thing that makes you pitch well. Location, sequencing, off-speed pitches, all those are more important than velocity.”
When Scherzer got to the dugout, he high-fived teammates and then, at the urging of new teammate Clayton Kershaw, saluted fans with a curtain call — the first of his distinguished career, Scherzer said. That, too, was greeted with thunderous applause.
“That was probably one of the best atmospheres I’ve ever played in,” Betts said. “That was pretty amazing to be a part of. I will definitely put that in the memory bank, for sure.”
Reliever Joe Kelly struck out Altuve to open the eighth, only the second time in the Astros second baseman’s career he has whiffed four times in the game, before giving up a two-out solo homer to Correa that made it 7-3.
Houston then gave the Dodgers a scare in the ninth when Aledmys Diaz singled and Kyle Tucker lined a two-run homer to right against closer Kenley Jansen to pull the Astros to within 7-5.
With Blake Treinen warming up in the bullpen, Jansen recovered to strike out Robel Garcia and Jason Castro with sliders and pinch-hitter Jake Meyers with a 91-mph cut-fastball to end the game and keep the Dodgers 3½ games behind the first-place San Francisco Giants in the National League West.
“The best part of the night was the final out of the ballgame, when we won,” Scherzer said. “It’s not about me, it’s not about individual stuff, it’s about the team, and when we got that last out, everyone feels good about themselves.”
Major League Baseball released its 2022 schedule, with the Dodgers opening against the Colorado Rockies and the Angels facing the Oakland Athletics.
Scherzer gave up a solo homer to Michael Brantley in the first, but the Dodgers got that back and more in the bottom of the first, when Betts led off with a homer to center, Max Muncy walked, Corey Seager reached on an error and Will Smith hit a three-run homer to right for a 4-1 lead.
Betts hit another solo homer in the second for a 5-1 lead — his 17th of the season, his 19th career multi-homer game and third in three games since returning from a right-hip injury.
AJ Pollock, the Dodgers’ hottest hitter for the last month, hit a two-run homer to left — his 14th of the season — for a 7-1 lead in the third. Pollock entered with a .438 average, five homers, 10 doubles and 11 RBIs in 21 games since July 7.
“You saw it tonight,” Scherzer said, when asked what makes the Dodgers so good. “The Dodgers … we … have a deep lineup. Guys up and down the line can grind you apart, and when you make mistakes, they make you pay.”
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