- The wait is nearly over. After nine very long years, the Mets will be playing their first postseason game tonight in Los Angeles. Terry Collins and company will hand the ball off to their 1A ace, Jacob deGrom, who was simply spectacular this season and will finish in the top 5 in NL CY Young voting. Despite his accomplishments this season, deGrom and the Mets will still be underdogs in Game 1 facing Clayton Kershaw who has simply been dominant this season. The reigning NL MVP is 7-1, with a 1.37 ERA over his last 11 starts. He is also baseball’s first 300 strikeout pitcher in over a decade. Unfortunately for the Mets, they will likely see Kershaw twice in this best of five series. That being said the Dodgers and Kershaw can be beaten. Here are the Mets keys to the series.
Key 1: Work Long Plate Appearances
It goes without saying but the Dodgers are obviously a much weaker team when Clayton Kershaw or Zack Greinke aren’t on the mound. The Mets may not be able to do much damage against the Dodgers two aces but if they can get them out of the game after six innings somehow, they should be in decent shape. The Dodgers bullpen is 7-10 with a 4.24 ERA since July 25th. Hardly the same production that Kershaw and Greinke bring. Kenley Jansen is the only reliever that Dodger fans can trust so if the Mets can force Don Mattingly to go to his other relievers then New York should have the advantage.
Curtis Granderson at the top of the order will be the biggest key for Game 1. Granderson who badly struggles against lefties and is just 1 for 10 against Kershaw needs to draw out long at bats. The quicker the Mets can get into the Dodgers bullpen, the better chance they have to win. Plus getting into the Dodgers bullpen allows Terry Collins to utilize lefty bat Michael Conforto more, who is likely just a pinch hitter vs three of the four Dodgers starters in this series.
Key 2: Get ahead in the count on Adrian Gonzalez
Adrian Gonzalez is the Dodgers best bat but like most of the Dodger hitters not named Corey Seager, he has struggled to date, batting just .176 with zero extra base hits over his last 11 games. If the Mets can keep Gonzalez in check, they should have a very good chance at moving on to the NLCS. Gonzalez is very good at sitting on one particular pitch and waiting for the pitcher to throw it. He can get in trouble when he waits for a pitch that doesn’t come and gets behind in the count. Gonzalez is hitting just .127 with 4 home runs when behind in the count 0-2 this season. Getting head of Gonzalez will be key for the Mets all week.
Key 3: Regain home field advantage
If the Mets can somehow take one of these two games in LA vs Kershaw and Greinke they will be sitting pretty with Matt Harvey on the mound in Game 3 with something to prove. The crowd will be in it and the Mets will be facing Brett Anderson, a solid pitcher but a major downgrade to what LA used in Games 1 & 2.
Expect these to be low scoring games where the Mets great young starting pitching will be asked to match two of the greatest pitchers in the world. They certainly have the talent to do it. It brings together the most important question of the series, are the Mets young pitchers running out of gas? Or will they outpitch the Dodgers and become household names across the nation. We find out tonight.