Los Angeles-New York: An Inside Look

Oct 3, 2006 - 4:18 AM BRISTOL, Connecticut (Ticker) - A preview of the National League Division Series matchup between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Mets, which begins Wednesday in New York.

Probable pitching matchups:

Game One in New York: Derek Lowe (16-8) vs. Orlando Hernandez (11-11) Game Two in New York: Hong-Chih Kuo (1-5) vs. Tom Glavine (15-7) Game Three in Los Angeles: Greg Maddux (15-14) vs. Steve Trachsel (15-8)

Probable Starters:

Los Angeles New York

C Russell Martin Paul Lo Duca 1B Nomar Garciaparra Carlos Delgado 2B Jeff Kent Jose Valentin 3B Wilson Betemit/Julio Lugo David Wright SS Rafael Furcal Jose Reyes LF Andre Ethier Cliff Floyd/Endy Chavez CF Kenny Lofton Carlos Beltran RF J.D. Drew Shawn Green

Season Series: The Mets won four of seven, taking two of three in Los Angeles from June 5-7 and splitting a four-game home series from September 7-10. ... Glavine won both of his starts, while Hernandez pitched effectively in his lone outing. ... Wright was 12-for-21, but Delgado, Floyd and Lo Duca combined to record just 11 hits in 57 at-bats. ... On the contrary, Kent, Martin, Garciaparra and Furcal had a collective .363 batting average with the latter two each hitting three homers. ... Lowe won his only start, but Maddux dropped his lone outing. In three games - one start - against the Mets, Kuo allowed just four hits with 12 strikeouts in nine scoreless innings.

Keys to the series: 1). Can the Mets' rotation survive the last-minute loss of Pedro Martinez? The three-time Cy Young Award winner battled injuries for a large part of the season, but he was supposed to return for the playoffs. That was until the Mets learned this week that the 35-year-old righthander has tears in both his left calf and right rotator cuff - injuries that will sideline him until May.

2) Will the Dodgers' rookies be able to handle the pressure of the postseason? The core of the team is made up of veterans, but the difference may be youngsters like Ethier and Martin, who combined for 21 homers, 120 RBI and 15 stolen bases during the regular season. Los Angeles also will counting on Kuo and rookie relievers Chad Billingsley, Jonathan Broxton and Takashi Saito to stabilize the back end of the bullpen when it matters most.

3) How difficult will it be for the Mets to turn up the intensity on the drop of a dime? New York clinched the NL East Division on September 18 and locked up home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs shortly thereafter. The Mets stumbled through the second half of September, losing 10 of 13 games before closing the season with four straight victories. By contrast, the Dodgers ended the campaign on a seven-game winning streak, did not clinch a playoff berth until the next-to-last day of the season, and were playing important games basically every day for the last two months.

4) While Martinez's injury has garnered most of the attention in this series, Los Angeles also has its share of concerns in the injury department. Penny was the starting pitcher in the All-Star game in July, but that feels like three years ago. The righthander was just 6-7 with a 6.25 ERA in the second half and left his last start Thursday with a back injury, putting his postseason status into question. Another All-Star, Garciaparra has been playing through a painful oblique injury that bothers him when he swings and a quad strain that limits his range at first base.

Inside the numbers: New York's 47 road victories were the most in the NL and its 31 one-run triumphs were second most in the majors. ... Beltran finished with 41 homers, tying the franchise record set by Todd Hundley, and Reyes set team marks with 19 homers by a shortstop and six leadoff blasts. ... The Mets' bullpen led the NL with a 3.29 ERA. LHP Billy Wagner tied for second in baseball with 16 one-run saves and RHP Aaron Heilman ranked second in the majors with 27 holds. ... Los Angeles was a woeful 7-30 against playoff teams and 19-38 vs. opponents that finished over .500. ... The Dodgers led the NL with a .276 batting average but ranked just 12th in fielding percentage, in large part due to Furcal's 27 errors. ... Saito held his opponents to a .177 average - lowest among NL relievers - and he allowed just 18 hits to righthanded batters all season.

They said it: "We have an opportunity to do something special and we're not going to let a guy here or there get to that," said Mets manager Willie Randolph, regarding his team heading into the playoffs without Martinez. "We've had our shares of injuries. Real good teams understand that you are not going to have your best guys. You never use that as an excuse. I sense that the attitude is that we have enough still. We can still do this."

Prediction: Dodgers in four.

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