The Dodgers two-headed monster is monstrous, but they too have a tall task ahead
So much is being made about the Dodgers two-headed monster in Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke ahead of their Division Series showdown with the Mets starting Friday night in Los Angeles.
There’s plenty of reasons for that as well.
Greinke and Kershaw combined for a 1.90 ERA, which is the lowest ERA for two starting pitchers on the same team since divisional play began in 1969.
In addition, Kershaw and Greinke are a combined in their careers against the Mets, and the Mets have to face this two-headed monster at Dodger Stadium, a building in which the Dodgers won a Los Angeles record 55 games in 2015, thanks in part to going 13-4 in games started by Kershaw in Los Angeles in 2015.
Kershaw finished strong as well, going 11-1 since July and became the first pitcher to strikeout 300 batters since Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson did so in 2002.
So nobody can make a fair argument the Mets can simply mow through the Dodgers in the first two games, despite winning two out of three in Los Angeles just three months ago (and going 1-1 in games started by Kershaw and Greinke in Dodger Stadium).
But the Mets aren’t in bad shape despite the challenge of having to overcome two games in which two of baseball’s great pitchers will try to crush the Mets hopes of a deep October run.
First off, the Mets will counter with Jacob deGrom in game one and Noah Syndergaard in game two, two of the best power-armed pitchers in the game themselves. And on Monday, the Mets will pull their ace from their hand when they send Matt Harvey to the mound in game three, with Steven Matz likely to follow in game four, potentially against Kershaw again.
Recall, those four pitchers threw consecutively against the Reds two weekends ago, allowing only eight runs with no walks while striking out 34 batters in 26 innings during that four game span in a hitters ballpark.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers are fairly ordinary when their two superhuman pitchers aren’t on the mound. They’re 49-48 when anyone other than Kershaw and Greinke are starting games.
In addition in the case of game one anyway, the Dodgers are 20-13 in games started by Kershaw in 2015. That’s good, but not quite as good as one would believe.
But that’s because Los Angeles’ bullpen is incredibly vulnerable. They had the 11th-worst bullpen ERA in the game at 3.91 in 2015. Indeed, they rack up a lot of strikeouts, but they also had the eighth-worst home run rate at 0.98 per nine innings, so they’re vulnerable to mistakes and opposing power late in games.
And if Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is considering bringing Kershaw back on short rest in game three, he might need to turn to his bullpen sooner than normal to preserve and begin the recovery process.
It’s worth noting the Dodgers are just 7-9 in games started by Kershaw on the road.
In addition, while the Mets were dominated by Kershaw in late July, that was a different lineup he had to face. Recall, it was that day John Mayberry Jr. and Eric Campbell batted third and fourth against Kershaw that day at Citi Field. On Friday night, he will be tasked with facing Yoenis Cespedes and perhaps David Wright or Daniel Murphy in those slots in the lineup.
That’s just a little different animal, and per the norm, Wright owned left-handed pitching in 2015 to the tune of a .351 average, although he’s just 3-for-14 with a double lifetime against Kershaw.
The Mets also dealt with left-handed starting pitchers well in 2015, going 20-16 against southpaws, although previously Terry Collins had mixed and matched against left-handers and right-handers, whereas in the playoffs Collins will go with his A-listers against Kershaw.
“You might as well play the game and see what we can do,” Collins said on Wednesday in Los Angeles. “We’ve competed out there before with that lineup, and we’re going to stick with it.”
By no means will it be easy, especially for the Mets left-handers in Curtis Granderson, Daniel Murphy, and Lucas Duda who are a combined 5-for-30 with no extra-base hits against Kershaw in their careers.
Then again, it’s a new season now that both clubs are beyond game 162.
And for Kershaw, he has to exorcise his own personal demons and pitch well in the playoffs, something he has yet to do overall in his career as he’s just 1-5 with a 4.98 ERA in eight postseason starts.
One of these days, he’s bound to pitch well in the playoffs. But even if that day comes today and even next Tuesday, the Mets are well armed to withstand his firepower.