With the Mets' World Series rotation settled Saturday, and with closer Jeurys Familia as reliable as ever, the only question mark left on the pitching staff is the so-called bridge to Familia.
In the first two rounds, Terry Collins used starter Noah Syndergaard in relief in one game, had Jacob deGrom, Steven Matz and even Matt Harvey on call in a few others, and used regular-season starters Bartolo Colon and Jon Niese effectively out of the pen.
For the early games of the World Series against the Royals, Collins likely will stay away from using his current starters as relievers. That means the big four in front of Familia will be Colon, Niese, Tyler Clippard and Addison Reed.
"That bridge to Familia can go in different directions," Collins said. "But the trails will all be the same names."
Niese and Clippard will be particularly important to combat lefthanded hitters such as Eric Hosmer, Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas.
"We think Tyler Clippard -- and he's shown it -- is very, very effective against lefthanded hitting," Collins said. "And they've got a lot of it. Addison, on the other hand, is really effective against righthanded hitting. We'll see what the situations are in those innings coming up."
Clippard held lefthanded batters to a .137 average in the regular season. Righties were actually more effective against Reed (.270 to .253), whom the Mets acquired from Arizona on Aug. 30.
Clippard, who was the Mets' primary eighth-inning guy after he came over from the A's on July 27, is no longer that. He allowed one run in 12/3 innings in the NLDS and two runs in three innings in the NLCS.
In Game 4 of the NLCS, Reed pitched a scoreless seventh, but Clippard allowed two runs in the eighth in the Mets' 8-3 victory.
Reed threw two scoreless innings in the NLCS after giving up one run in 11/3 innings in two appearances in the first round.
Along with Colon, Niese has been Collins' not-so-secret weapon in the playoffs. In Game 2 of the NLCS, Niese struck out the Cubs' Anthony Rizzo in a big sixth-inning spot. Niese likely will be tested again in the World Series.
"The job Jon Niese did that night against Rizzo here, that's going to happen again," Collins said. "So we're going to turn to him certainly to get that big out when we need to. They can hit lefthanded pitching, too. They're a good team. You don't get to the World Series two years in a row without being really good. And they're really good."
Colon, meanwhile, has been his usual unflappable self. Beginning in 1998, his first 10 postseason appearances were all starts, but as a reliever this postseason, he has allowed two runs in 51/3 innings in four appearances, including an important strikeout of Kris Bryant in relief of Matz in the fifth inning of the NLCS-clinching Game 4 at Wrigley Field.