What was for many an expected response to the offseason revelation that the Houston Astros illegally stole signs during their run to the 2017 World Series title unfolded Tuesday at Minute Maid Park when words were exchanged and then dugouts cleared in the sixth inning.
By the time Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Joe Kelly struck out Astros shortstop Carlos Correa to end the inning and strand two runners in scoring position, the Dodgers — whom the Astros beat in seven games to win that 2017 World Series — were well on their way to a 5-2 victory in the opener of a two-game interleague series that will conclude Wednesday.
However, Kelly had already thrown up and in to Alex Bregman and Correa, and according to Astros manager Dusty Baker, Kelly yelled an expletive at Correa as he walked off the mound.
The Astros were left frustrated by both the turn of events and the result, and they face the reality that more pitchers may behave similarly as a form of retaliation for what was unearthed before the season.
“Balls get away sometimes, but not that many in the big leagues,” Baker said of Kelly, who also threw inside to Yuli Gurriel. “What really enraged everybody is what he told Carlos when he struck him out. …
“What upset me is the umpires warned us. Why don’t you warn him? He’s the one that started this mess in the first place. I didn’t like it at all.”
Bregman was more measured and elusive in his response to the incident, seemingly indicating that such behavior is to be expected if players continue to exact this long-held brand of justice.
“All we can do is control what we can control, and that’s showing up and trying to win,” Bregman said.
Kelly said of his pitch to Correa, “I threw him a curveball. I guess they didn’t take too kind to a curveball. It is what it is. I walked a couple guys, was able to get out of the inning. I finally made one good pitch for the punchout and was able to keep the lead where it was at.”
Astros right-hander Cristian Javier (0-0, 0.00 ERA) will make his first career start on Wednesday, filling an emergency role with ace right-hander Justin Verlander landing on the 10-day injured list due to a forearm strain.
Javier made his major league debut against the Seattle Mariners on Saturday, allowing one hit while recording one strikeout in a scoreless inning of relief. The Dominican-born Javier compiled a 26-11 record and 2.22 ERA in five minor league seasons with 512 strikeouts over 377 innings. He was 8-3 with a 1.74 ERA over three levels last season.
Rookie right-hander Dustin May (0-0, 2.08 ERA) will start the series finale for the Dodgers. With ace left-hander Clayton Kershaw sidelined by a back injury, May made an emergency start in the season opener against the San Francisco Giants on July 23, allowing one run on seven hits with four strikeouts over 4 1/3 innings. He did not factor into the decision of an 8-1 victory.
May made his big league debut on Aug. 2, 2019, and finished 2-3 with a 3.63 ERA over 14 appearances (four starts) last season, recording 32 strikeouts over 34 2/3 innings. The Wednesday start will mark his first against the Astros and his third career interleague appearance, with May combining for four scoreless innings against the Baltimore Orioles and Tampa Bay Rays.
The Dodgers, widely viewed as primary victims of the Astros’ improprieties, brought an emotional edge to a series as anticipated as anything Houston might face at any other point this season.
“Even before the game, there was a quiet focus, determination in the clubhouse,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “It was different. Obviously, it was probably the opponent.”
–Field Level Media