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Kevin Long counting on Mets' lefthanded hitters to battle against Dodgers' southpaws

New York Mets rightfielder Curtis Granderson doubles against

New York Mets rightfielder Curtis Granderson doubles against the Atlanta Braves during the seventh inning of a baseball game at Citi Field on Monday, Sept. 21, 2015. Photo Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Curtis Granderson, Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda -- three of the Mets' most productive players -- hit from the left side. Three of the Dodgers' projected postseason starting pitchers throw lefthanded.

One of those lefthanders is named Clayton Kershaw. And the only righty in the bunch might be the NL's Cy Young Award winner: Zack Greinke.

The matchup hardly seems ideal.

But hitting coach Kevin Long said postseason pitching -- whether it's lefties or righties -- always presents plenty of problems. And the NLDS against the Dodgers, who also had lefthanders Brett Anderson and Alex Wood in their regular-season rotation, is no different.

"It's the playoffs, that's the bottom line," Long said. "We could have been facing [Gerrit] Cole and [A.J.] Burnett. You can face a team with great righties and it can be the same challenge. It doesn't present a more difficult challenge, if that's what you're asking."

In the second half of the season, manager Terry Collins has made effective use of platoons, with righthanded hitters Michael Cuddyer, Juan Lagares and Juan Uribe seeing plenty of action against lefties.

That rule also has applied to lefthanded-hitting rookie Michael Conforto, who has been shielded from lefthanders since his promotion in late July.

But Collins has said that with the exception of Conforto, the Mets' prominent lefthanded hitters will remain in the starting lineup against the Dodgers, whose .616 OPS against lefthanded hitters is the third lowest in the National League.

Meanwhile, the Mets went 20-16 against lefthanded starters and 70-56 against righties, which is the exact same winning percentage of .556.

"We need our lefties to put together good at-bats," Long said. "Not necessarily get hits, but grind on them and put together good at-bats."

Granderson and Murphy have endured more struggles against lefties this year than in past seasons. Although Duda has posted the best numbers against lefties of his career, much of that damage came in the first half of the season.

"I've seen throughout my years as a hitting coach," Long said, "guys fluctuate."

Granderson, a lifetime .224 hitter against lefties, is batting .183 against them this season. It matches his average against them in 2009, the lowest of his career. His .558 OPS against lefties is his worst since 2009, when he had a .484 OPS with the Yankees.

The struggles this season go against a recent trend for Granderson, who significantly improved his numbers against lefties with the Yankees, where he first worked with Long.

"At any given time, a guy can feel comfortable with his at-bats, comfortable with where he's at," Long said. "And right now, Grandy feels good with where he's at. I'm not really concerned with the lefties and whether Grandy will put together good at-bats."

Murphy has generally been steady against lefthanders, hitting .271 with a .674 OPS. But this season, those numbers have dipped beneath his career line to .254 and .633.

Duda enjoyed a breakout year against lefties. After his deficiencies against southpaws became a matter of public scrutiny last season, he enjoyed his best season against them.

Duda has a .229 average and a .670 OPS against lefties in his career, but he hit .285 with an .878 OPS this season. However, he hasn't done as well against them lately.

Nevertheless, with all three, Long has seen enough recently to believe that they can provide a presence in the lineup.

"You can almost throw everything out the window going into a playoff game if they feel good about their approach and their swings," Long said. "Now in the playoffs there's very good pitching, so that's always going to be an obstacle to overcome. But Zack Greinke is going to give a lefty trouble. Kershaw, whether you're lefty or righty, he's going to give you trouble."

With Roger Rubin

New York Sports