LOS ANGELES — They danced in the Dodger Stadium aisles Wednesday night when Max Scherzer danced off the mound.
They serenaded him with ovations while Scherzer screamed in elation.
And, oh, did they ever celebrate, louder and louder each and every time he struck out Houston Astros All-Star second baseman Jose Altuve.
Hello Hollywood, you have a new star in town.
The name is Maxwell M. Scherzer.
Nickname: “Mad Max.’’
“That was just awesome,’’ said former TV personality Mary Hart from her seat behind home plate. “What a welcome!’’
The sentiment was shared by the sellout crowd of 52,724, the largest to see a baseball game this season.
Scherzer, making his Dodgers’ debut Wednesday after being traded from the Washington Nationals, lived up to every bit of the hype, dominating the Houston Astros, 7-5, and ushered off the mound to a thunderous standing ovation, even including a seventh-inning curtain call.
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“The crowd was definitely into it, and you can feed off that,’’ Scherzer said, “get some adrenaline off that. To go out there and pitch well and to have the fans ask for a curtain call for me, I never had that happen. What a cool moment.
“That’s a cool moment and something I’ll never forget.’’
It might be a sentiment shared this night by everyone with a ticket.
Scherzer stifled the Astros’ high-powered lineup, giving up just five hits and two earned runs in seven innings, striking out 10 batters. He was still throwing 96 mph in his final inning, his curveball was still dancing, and his changeup was still bobbing, when he struck out Chas McCormick for the third out after throwing his 109th pitch in the seventh.
He jumped off the mound, twice punched his fist, screamed, and the boisterous crowd was screaming right along with him.
Scherzer’s teammates hugged and high-fived him, and by the time he was at the end of the dugout, with the stadium shaking with emotion, Cy Young Award-winning teammate Clayton Kershaw yelled toward Scherzer.
“Hey,’’ Kershaw said, “give them what they want.’’
So he did.
Scherzer stepped out of the dugout, tipped his cap, and the crowd roared.
“At that point, the crowd was going nuts,’’ Scherzer said. “I wanted to go out there and tip my hat, and appreciate what they did. They brought an unbelievable energy tonight.’’
The Dodgers fans can only hope this is a prelude of a possible dream rematch of their 2017 World Series. Only this time, without the use of any illegal electronic espionage or a trash can in sight.
It’s the kind of compelling theater that Hollywood would love after watching Dodger fans spending the past 48 hours booing and taunting the Astros with all of their might. They threw inflatable trash cans and foul balls hit by Astros’ players onto the field. There were fights in the stands. Beers thrown at one another. And constant screaming and cursing.
Oh, baby, did everyone have a blast.
“That was one of the best atmospheres I’ve ever played in,’’ says Dodgers second baseman Mookie Betts, who hit two home runs. “That was pretty amazing to be a part of. I will definitely put that in my memory bank, for sure.’’
And even better, Betts says, knowing that he might never have to face Scherzer again as long as he lives.
“Finally,’’ Betts says, “being on the same side, and then being able to play second base to kind of see how he works, that was just a great thing to witness.’’
Who can blame the Dodgers’ imagination for running wild now knowing they have a Fearsome Foursome of Scherzer, Kershaw, Walker Buehler and Julio Urias down the pennant stretch and into October? Oh, and if that’s not enough to have two future Hall of Famers in the rotation with Kershaw and Scherzer, they have former Cy Young winner David Price and former World Series MVP Cole Hamels.
“I can’t think of a better city to have two future Hall of Famers,’’ said Harris Katleman, former president and CEO of 20th Century Fox and MGM, “than Los Angeles. This city is made for stars.’’
Oh, is it ever, and Scherzer was ready to embrace all of the expectations right along with it.
“It was awesome, it was fantastic,’’ Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “From the moment we got to the ballpark, you can just see that elation, anticipation from our guys. The buzz from the crowd from the first pitch.
“And he delivered.’’
Oh, did he ever.
Scherzer struck out Altuve to open the game on four pitches. Stuck out Altuve again in the third inning. And again in the sixth. And when Altuve struck out for the fourth time against Joe Kelly, you’d have thought Kirk Gibson popped back in town to homer again off Dennis Eckersley.
Scherzer was only the third pitcher in Altuve’s career to strike him out three times and the first in four years.
“It was so nice to be around people rooting for the same thing,’’ said Gary Winnick, the American financier and former founder and chairman of Global Crossing, “instead of everyone sitting around complaining. Just a beautiful night.’’
Really, a perfect evening for the Dodgers.
Scherzer, proving he’s completely healthy from his triceps soreness, hit 97 mph on the gun, averaging 95.2 mph on his fastball, generating 17 swings and misses overall. His curveball was the sharpest it has been all year, throwing it 15 times. He mixed in 15 changeups, 14 sliders, and nine cutters. He wound up throwing 73 of his 109 pitches for strikes, and became only the seventh pitcher to strike out 10 or more batters in his Dodgers’ debut since the franchise moved to Los Angeles.
“That was vintage Scherzer,’’ Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “Scherzer can pitch. No secret about that.’’
The man cruised all evening, showing his teammates and the rest of the Dodger faithful what could be in store these next few glorious months.
“He’s definitely built for this,’’ Roberts said. “We expect him to be who he is.’’
The Dodgers and Astros will be there in October, and perhaps after what everyone witnessed these past two days, they may be on a collision course to meet in the World Series.
“This is an extremely talented group,’’ Scherzer said. “It’s fun to join these guys because we have a great chance to win. But it’s going to take a lot of work to be able to get there.’’
But after watching Scherzer’s debut, that task is going to be a whole lot easier than before his arrival.
Mad Max is here to stay.
Follow USA TODAY Sports’ Bob Nightengale on Twitter @BNightengale.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Max Scherzer impressive in LA Dodgers debut in win over Houston Astros