50° Good Evening
50° Good Evening
SportsColumnistsNeil Best

Clayton Kershaw vs. Steven Matz in Game 4 of NLDS, where pitching dynamics are not normal

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw looks

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw looks on during warmups ahead of Game 3 of the NLDS against the New York Mets on Monday, Oct. 12, 2015. Credit: Jim McIsaac

Now we know for sure that if the Mets and Dodgers played a head-to-head, bi-coastal, 162-game series, the Amazin's would win going away.

If it was not evident before, it was after watching Don Mattingly trot out a pair of lefties who are not Clayton Kershaw, only to watch Brett Anderson and Alex Wood give up 10 earned runs in five combined innings in a 13-7 loss on Monday night.

Yo, Donnie Baseball, next time you need a lefthander in a big spot, better to go with Sandy Koufax. So what if he is 79? He could not have given up a longer home run to Yoenis Cespedes than Wood did in Game 3 of the NLDS.

More to the point, what the Dodgers lack in the non-Kershaw southpaw department is what the Mets will throw at them in Game 4 Tuesday: Long Island's own Steven Matz, who at 24 is undefeated in his major league career.

Matz is no lock to come through, given that he has been on the shelf since Sept. 24 with a back ailment and his lack of experience. But you have to like his odds to do better than what the back end of the Dodgers' rotation has to offer.

Having said all that . . .

It must be noted that the Mets and Dodgers are NOT playing a head-to-head, bi-coastal, 162-game series, because that would be a little dull - not to mention environmentally unfriendly.

The curse and beauty of playoff baseball is that normal pitching dynamics do not apply.

Just ask the Yankees and Pirates, whose postseason stays ended in nine innings thanks to one scorching-hot opposing pitcher each - the Astros' Dallas Keuchel and the Cubs' Jake Arrieta, respectively.

Best-of-five series are more representative than that. But still: not normal.

So it is that even though the Mets are the better all-around team, and even coming off an emphatic victory Monday night, this series not only is not in the bag but might be little better than a 50-50 proposition.

That is no disrespect to young Mr. Matz, who in group interviews with reporters both Sunday and Monday seemed no more on edge than if he had been speaking in Port St. Lucie in March.

It merely is to acknowledge the talents of Clayton Kershaw, who will start Game 4, and Zack Greinke, who will go in Game 5 -- if there is one.

The Mets only have to beat one of them. But most teams rarely beat either of them.

"We came into this knowing we were going to see [Kershaw] twice and possibly Greinke twice," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "That's a tall order for anybody, any team. But it is what it is . . . He's tough, but he's coming back on short rest."

Collins said the goal will be to take Kershaw deep into counts, as the Mets did in Game 1, in hopes of shortening his outing. "That's the only way," Collins said. "When you face him, you better hunt a pitch and you better hit it. If he's on, he's real tough."

After tying the Mets' playoff record with five RBIs Monday night, Curtis Granderson said, "Regardless of what anyone says in terms of coming out on a short rest . . . that's Clayton Kershaw. He's one of the best pitchers in the game. It's not going to be easy for us."

Kershaw has twice before started playoff games on three days' rest.

In 2013, he allowed three hits and two runs - neither earned - in six innings in a victory over the Braves. In 2014, he allowed four hits and three runs in six innings in a loss to the Cardinals.

"I'll never admit that I'm tired," Kershaw said. "You want to feel the same on pitch one as you do pitch 140, and you want to feel the same in April as you do in October. And I feel like I do. I really do."

We will see about that soon enough. If Kershaw does come through, the Mets will face another long flight to L.A., and another test against Greinke - this time with Jacob deGrom aiming for a second postseason gem.

Regardless, it will be over by Thursday night. That's the cruel reality of this playoff business. And the fun of it.


We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

New York Sports