Dodgers' Kuo looks to make more history vs. Mets

Oct 5, 2006 - 12:58 PM BRISTOL, Connecticut (Ticker) -- A Taiwanese pitcher hopes to complete the rarest of daily doubles, but the odds are considerably stacked against a repeat performance.

Lefthander Hong-Chih Kuo on Thursday night attempts to become the second Taiwanese hurler in three days ever to win a postseason game when the Los Angeles Dodgers meet the New York Mets in Game Two of the National League Division Series at Shea Stadium.

But before Kuo takes prime-time center stage, across town the New York Yankees look to take a 2-0 lead on the Tigers in Game Two of the ALDS at 1:09 p.m. EDT. Originally set for Wednesday night, the game was rained out and pushed back a day to the scheduled off day.

In the second game of the afternoon, the San Diego Padres will try and salvage a split of the first two games at home against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Unlike compatriot Chien-Ming Wang, who made history Tuesday by becoming the first pitcher from Taiwan to win a playoff game in the New York Yankees' 8-4 victory over the Detroit Tigers in the opener of the American League Division Series, Kuo will have to overcome 55,000 hostile fans and his inexperience to prevent the Dodgers from falling into a 2-0 hole against the Mets.

The 25-year-old rookie has just five career starts, but the Dodgers are hoping he can duplicate his first one, when he pitched six scoreless innings and allowed just three hits against the Mets on September 8 at Shea for his only win.

"Well, I think he showed us the same thing he showed the whole world - he's not scared of anyone, he's got good stuff, he challenged the hitters, he works fast," Dodgers manager Grady Little said. "That's all we're looking for right here in the game (Thursday)."

As if the task for Kuo isn't daunting enough, he will be opposed on the mound by two-time Cy Young Award winner Tom Glavine.

It will be the 33rd career playoff start for the 40-year-old lefthander, who has a 12-15 record in the postseason, all coming with the Atlanta Braves.

Glavine went 15-7 in the regular season and was especially tough at home, compiling an 8-3 mark with a 2.66 ERA. With 290 regular season wins to his credit, he can appreciate how it would feel to be in Kuo's position in such a tense situation.

"It would be nerve-wracking to say the least," Glavine said. "I mean, everybody's different. I don't know his makeup. Looking back at my career, at that point in time. I would have been nervous, no question about it. I like to believe that mentally I could have handled it. But ... it's hard to imagine that one career win ago that I would have been the kind of pitcher that could have physically gone out there and pitched a good game.

"He's obviously got good stuff, and that's why he's here. He pitched a great game against us. He has the ability to do it, but there's no question that tomorrow night will be a little bit probably different atmosphere than he's been accustomed to."

Kuo not only is friends with Wang, but the two played on the Taiwanese national team together and were teammates in high school.

"Yeah, we pretty good friends," Kuo said. "I talked to him, like, three days ago, yeah. Just tell him good luck and he tell me same thing."

The Yankees will send Mike Mussina (15-7, 3.51 ERA) against prize Tigers rookie Justin Verlander (17-9, 3.63).

A 37-year-old righthander, Mussina is 8-2 in 15 home starts and beat the Tigers in Detroit on May 31. He is in the final season of a six-year contract with New York and is still seeking his first World Series ring.

"Anything can happen in the postseason. Anything can happen in a short series," Mussina said. "All we ask for as players is to be given the chance to get to this point and let's see what happens. I'm thankful - this is my sixth chance in a row - that I have another chance."

The Yankees won Game One, 8-4, behind captain Derek Jeter's 5-for-5 performance. It was just the sixth five-hit game in postseason history.

It will be up to Verlander to reverse a slide that saw Detroit get swept at home by Kansas City on the final weekend of the regular season, costing the Tigers, who are in the postseason for the first time since 1987, the AL Central Division title.

The 23-year-old righthander won 10 games before the All-Star break but slumped along with the rest of the team in the second half, going 4-5. He admitted he has to guard against the intimidation factor of pitching at Yankee Stadium.

"I think it could be, if I let it, but I can't really think about that too much," Verlander said. "I've just got to go out and try to do what I've done all year and not let the situation get the best of me."

MVP candidate Albert Pujols belted a two-run home run to spark the Cardinals to a 5-1 win in Tuesday's opening game of the NLDS.

San Diego sends 43-year-old David Wells, a late-season acquisition from the Boston Red Sox, to the mound against Jeff Weaver, who came to the Cardinals in a trade from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

Weaver was just 8-14 on the year but the 30-year-old righthander won his final three decisions.

"It's continued motivation, especially when you start off as rough as I did," Weaver said. "I think a lot had to do with just the change itself, getting to St. Louis, starting, being able to start fresh and put those things behind me that occurred in the first half."

Wells endured an injury-plagued season and made just 13 starts, including five with the Padres, in which he went 1-2. But the portly lefthander has a reputation as a big-game pitcher, posting a 10-4 record in 16 career postseason starts.

"I think it's the greatest time of the year, because you're out there," Wells said. "Everything is on the line. Everybody is pouring their hearts out, trying to get to the next level, to the big game."






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