Astros, Dodgers developed quite a rivalry as division foes

By Noah Trister, AP Baseball Writer

Long before they made it to this year’s World Series, the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers were plenty familiar with each other.

For a quarter century, they were in the NL West together, and back in the 1980s, their rivalry really began to take shape. Although Houston eventually moved to the NL Central and then the American League, the Astros have a history with the Dodgers that adds even more intrigue to their matchup in the coming World Series.

Here’s a look back at 10 of the most memorable games between these two franchises.


Houston led the Dodgers by three games in the division race heading into this final three-game series in Los Angeles, so the Astros needed only one victory to wrap up the NL West and their first playoff spot. They nearly got it in the opener, but with the Dodgers down to their last out, Ron Cey singled home the tying run in the ninth. Joe Ferguson won it with a leadoff homer an inning later.

The winning pitcher was 19-year-old Fernando Valenzuela. A year before “Fernandomania” took the National League by storm, the Mexican lefty made his major league debut in mid-September and pitched 10 times in relief down the stretch.

OCT. 6, 1980: ASTROS 7, DODGERS 1

The Dodgers got the sweep they needed to pull even with Houston, but in a one-game playoff for the division title, Art Howe hit a two-run homer in the third inning, and the Astros were up 7-0 by the middle of the fourth at Dodger Stadium. Joe Niekro went the distance for his 20th win of the year, and Houston headed to the postseason for the first time.


The first start of Valenzuela’s career came in the season opener in ’81, and his five-hit shutout was a sign of things to come. He would go on to win his first eight starts, throwing shutouts in five of them.

Houston Astros pitcher Nolan Ryan hurls the ball Sept. 26, 1981, against the Los Angeles Dodgers, en route to the fifth no-hitter of his career, at the Houston Astrodome. Photo by AP.

SEPT. 26, 1981: ASTROS 5, DODGERS 0

Although Valenzuela won the Cy Young Award as a rookie, Houston’s Nolan Ryan provided a late-season highlight of his own when he pitched the fifth no-hitter of his career. Ryan struck out 11 at the Astrodome and retired Dusty Baker on a groundout to third to end it.

OCT. 6, 1981: ASTROS 3, DODGERS 1

After a players’ strike in midseason, Major League Baseball decided the first-place team from the opening half would play the first-place club from the second half for the division title. Los Angeles was best before the strike, Houston was tops after the players returned. Game 1 pitted Valenzuela against Ryan, and Houston finally prevailed when Alan Ashby connected for a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth off reliever Dave Stewart.


Stewart would become a star years later in Oakland, but this series was a forgettable one for the right-hander. He took the loss in Game 2 as well. Denny Walling delivered the winning hit , and Houston had its second straight dramatic victory at the Astrodome.

OCT. 11, 1981: DODGERS 4, ASTROS 0

On the brink of elimination, the Dodgers won three in a row to take the best-of-five series. The finale was in Los Angeles, and Jerry Reuss pitched a five-hitter , outdueling Ryan and sending the Dodgers to the next round. Los Angeles went on to win the World Series.


There wasn’t as much at stake on this June night at the Astrodome, but the Astros and Dodgers ended up playing one of the wackiest games in the history of either franchise. Houston tied it with three runs in the sixth, and then nobody scored for a good long while.

The Astros had the would-be winning run thrown out at the plate twice in extra innings. Orel Hershiser pitched seven scoreless innings of relief on two days’ rest. The Dodgers had men on second and third with nobody out in the 21st and didn’t score. In the bottom half, LA finally took Hershiser out and put third baseman Jeff Hamilton on the mound to pitch. Eddie Murray moved from first base to third and Valenzuela — who had pitched seven innings the previous day — went in to play first.

Hamilton actually retired the Astros in order in the 21st, but the following inning, Rafael Ramirez hit an RBI single past Valenzuela to end it.


After playing into the wee hours of the morning, the teams had to be back at the ballpark for a day game, and that one went long, too. Mike Scioscia of the Dodgers and Louie Meadows of the Astros both hit grand slams, and Houston ultimately rallied from a 6-0 deficit to win. Craig Biggio hit a solo homer with two outs in the ninth to force extra innings.

Once again, the ending had a twist. The Astros brought in ace Mike Scott — who had thrown a shutout two days earlier — to pitch in relief. After he made it through the top of the 13th, Scott drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly in the bottom half.

AUG. 21, 2015: ASTROS 3, DODGERS 0

Houston was in the American League by this time, but the Astros and Dodgers were still capable of some drama. Mike Fiers pitched a no-hitter for Houston, striking out 10 in what is still the only complete game of his major league career.