It was a tale of two opposite games for the Dodgers as they took on the Astros at Minute Maid Park in Houston on Tuesday and Wednesday. For Clayton Kershaw (7-3), his first time pitching at Minute Maid Park since the 2017 World Series couldn’t have gone better for him and his club.
“I think it was just a combo of Clayton, by nature, being a strike-thrower and this is an aggressive offensive club. So, when you are throwing quality strikes, it puts the ball in play.” Manager Dave Roberts said of his starting pitcher. “He just had such a really good outing, he and Austin [Barnes] were in lockstep all night long.”
Facing an Astros club that leads the majors in batting average and is top three in runs scored and on-base percentage, Kershaw faced a tough task Tuesday night.
“That’s a great team, they swing the bats well, especially against left-handed pitching and they don’t strike out a lot,” Clayton told reporters after the game. “So just getting quick outs, I was trying to put it on the ground the best I could.”
Quick outs are exactly what he got, going 7 2/3 innings pitched, tossing 81 pitches, striking out six, and the only run coming from a solo home run by Alex Bregman on a hanging breaking ball in the seventh inning. Cruising through the game, a locked-in Kershaw looked able to pitch a complete game. However, the Dodgers scored three runs and saw three Astros pitchers in a long eighth inning, including Kent Emanuel who injured his arm and had to be removed after facing one batter.
“I felt great and then the injury took a little too long. It was getting harder for me to stay at that point, but overall felt fine.” Kershaw explained. “I wanted to finish it tonight, but pitching, coming back on the day game on Sunday, it makes more sense to get some guys in there and get ready for Sunday [against the Giants].”
At the first full capacity game at Minute Maid Park since Game 7 of the 2019 World Series against the Washington Nationals, a crowd of 34,443 piled in and brought ample energy to the series opener.
“I knew it was going to be full capacity. It was really energetic tonight. You heard [the Dodger fans] all night long and certainly the Astros fans, just really good energy.” Dave Roberts said.
Strong representation by Dodger fans on the road didn’t go unnoticed by the players, especially by an appreciative Clayton Kershaw. “So cool. Down that right-field line, but they were really sprinkled in all over the place. Great atmosphere tonight, it was really special to see that many Dodger fans there. You know everything that’s happened in the past has affected them just like it has affected us. You can feel it in the way they cheer, it was a great feeling having them there.”
Winning the first game convincingly by a score of 9-2, the Dodgers weren’t able to carry their performance into Wednesday, dropping the game 5-2, ending their eight-game winning streak. Astros starter Luis García (3-3), pitched six innings without allowing a run and striking out seven.
“Tonight, Garcia did a nice job mixing the fastball and the slider. We just couldn’t put anything together. They tacked one on early and the [Carlos] Correa home run late just broke it open.” Roberts said after the game.
“Got in a little funk in the first inning where I was a little bit off mechanically and locked it in from there,” Bauer said about his outing. “After the first inning, if you watch the quality of the pitches, it was really good. 100 pitches is an arbitrary number, I’ll pitch as deep into a game as long as I’m allowed to. I felt good, obviously, that is not my decision to make, so I was happy to pitch well.”
“I think early, he just didn’t have the feel and you could see that at-bat with [Carlos] Correa, he was smart to pitch around him to get to the seventh hitter and got out of the inning after 37 pitches.” Roberts explained about his starter. “That’s an aggressive ballclub, so I thought after that they were still aggressive, we got some quick outs, and he got back to his normal pitch count. To see him get six innings and have the ability to potentially keep going is remarkable and a credit to how he competes.”
Although Bauer got his stuff working, the Dodger offense did not. One of the bright spots of the game for the Dodgers came from position player Sheldon Neuse, who hit a solo home run in the eighth inning.
“It just seemed like we were trying to do a little too much. We need to put the ball in play and find a way to move guys and get runs across.” Neuse said about the Dodgers struggling offense in the game.
The Dodgers will face the Astros one more time this season in a two game series at Dodger Stadium on August 3-4.
“It was awesome. I got to play [at Minute Maid Park] with Oakland and it was heated, but nothing like this series.” Neuse said. “Playing with the Dodgers here is just incredible. This series was a blast and I’m looking forward to the rest of it.”