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Mets' hitting approach pays dividends

NY Mets' David Wright hitting a two run

NY Mets' David Wright hitting a two run RBI single against the LA Dodgers in the Top of the 7th inning at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, CA during game 1 of the NLDS Friday Oct. 9, 2015. Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams Jr.

LOS ANGELES - In the batting tunnel behind the home dugout at Citi Field, Mets hitting coach Kevin Long occasionally brings in a giant whiteboard. It is essentially a report card, on display for all uniforms to see.

The board tracks which hitters have shown the best command of the strike zone, which have enjoyed success in critical situations and which have not. The reminders are constant.

Already in this National League Division Series, the Mets have benefited from an adherence to their disciplined organizational hitting philosophy.

In a 3-1 victory over Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw on Friday night, the Mets followed a template that could serve them well in their quest to make the most of their first postseason appearance since 2006. They made Kershaw work, waging enough wars of attrition to knock the lefthander out in the seventh inning.

"There were some tremendous at-bats, great at-bats throughout the game," manager Terry Collins said before Game 2 Saturday night, when the Mets faced another stiff test in Zack Greinke.

If the series goes far enough, the Mets likely will see both Kershaw and Greinke again. And if the Mets advance, confrontations with other aces loom on the horizon.

But after their Game 1 triumph over Kershaw, the Mets proved that when executed well, their hitting approach can stand up to even the toughest of tests.

"You start in spring training and you continue to harp on it throughout the years," Long said. "We monitor every chase, every at-bat, the quality of every at-bat. I was proud of these guys [Friday]. They put together some really good at-bats. Ultimately, the three walks in the seventh inning ended up being the game."

Kershaw appeared to tire in the seventh, when he issued three of his four walks. One of those came against Ruben Tejada. Long called his at-bat "most impressive" because he rallied from an 0-and-2 count to work an eight-pitch walk.

Kershaw was pulled after 113 pitches with the bases loaded, then watched reliever Pedro Baez allow what proved to be the winning two-out, two-run single by David Wright.

It was Wright who set the tone in the first, battling Kershaw in a 12-pitch at-bat. And Wright was ready to hit when his opportunity came, just as he was when he jumped on Baez's 98-mph fastball.

"Over the course of the [season], we've done a good job of that," leadoff man Curtis Granderson said. "That's one of those things where you have to distinguish putting together good at-bats and taking pitches. If you start taking pitches, next thing you know, you're going to be down, you're going to be behind. You still have to be ready to hit and hopefully [get] your pitch."

Indeed, the Mets' approach ultimately relies on being selectively aggressive, demanding that hitters hack at pitches they can hammer and hold off on pitches they can't.

"It's easier said than done," Granderson said. "But guys were able to stick with it, especially after [four] days off, which makes it that much more difficult."

Notes & quotes: If needed, Long Island's Steven Matz could start NLDS Game 4. Because Jacob deGrom needed a season-high 121 pitches to throw seven shutout innings in Game 1, Collins reiterated that it would be "unrealistic" to bring deGrom back to start Game 4, even if the Mets are facing elimination . . . Tyler Clippard likely will remain in the setup role despite his recent shakiness. He allowed the Dodgers' only run on Friday night . . . Former Met Rusty Staub will be in attendance at Game 3 Monday at Citi Field. He recently suffered a heart attack.


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