Walker Buehler

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Dodgers, Astros square off in Houston

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The Dodgers and Astros are set to open a brief two-game series in Houston on Tuesday night. It’s their first meeting of the 2020 season, and their first meeting since Major League Baseball punished the Astros for their cheating scheme used in 2017 en route to a World Series, which they won over the Dodgers. Walker Buehler will oppose Framber Valdez.

There was some back-and-forth between members of the two clubs in the wake of MLB’s report on the Astros’ “banging scheme.” In mid-February, Dodgers outfielder and reigning NL MVP Cody Bellinger said, “Everyone knows they stole the ring from us.” He called Astros owner Jim Crane “weak” and said that second baseman José Altuve “stole an MVP from Judge in ’17.”

Astros shortstop Carlos Correa responded the next day, saying Bellinger “either doesn’t know how to read, is really bad at reading comprehension, or is just not informed at all.” He insisted that the Astros “played clean” in 2018 and ’19. Correa also added that Altuve was “the one guy that didn’t use the trash can.”

There was some concern that the Astros would be targeted by opposing pitchers as retribution for their cheating ways — not just by the Dodgers, but the other 28 teams as well. Before the pandemic shut down the league in mid-March, commissioner Rob Manfred issued a memorandum discouraging teams from retaliating against the Astros. The pandemic has made it even tougher. In order to maintain social distancing, players and managers are not allowed to instigate altercations.

If nothing else, tonight’s matchup will at least cause us to wonder what might have been. Per Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said the 2017 World Series “would have been different” if the Astros hadn’t been stealing signs. He also said he didn’t expect his players to retaliate.

Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson at least had something spicy to say. Via Bill Shaikin of The Los Angeles Times, Pederson said he doesn’t think the winner of the 2020 World Series, a pandemic-shortened season, should have an asterisk next to their name. Pederson said, “They’re not cheating their way to get there.”