NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Michael Cuddyer and the New York Mets are well aware of the challenge ahead.
First, they get Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 of the playoffs against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
And then, Zack Greinke.
It’s an imposing 1-2 pitching punch that manager Terry Collins referred to last month as “those two animals.”
“Did we expect to see anybody else? That’s what the game’s about, to face the best,” Collins said Wednesday.
Kershaw, last year’s NL MVP, struck out 301 hitters this season and finished 16-7 with a 2.13 ERA. He went 11-1 with a 1.22 ERA and four complete games, including three shutouts, in his final 17 starts. The left-hander has won three of the past four NL Cy Young Awards.
Greinke, the 2009 AL Cy Young winner, was 19-3 with a 1.66 ERA this year — lowest in the majors since Hall of Famer Greg Maddux posted a 1.63 mark for Atlanta in 1995.
“We all know that they’re both two of the best pitchers in the game,” Cuddyer said this week. “I think it does help to have faced them before. Whether you win or lose, I don’t think that really plays into it. But the fact that you faced them before, the fact that the guys have had at-bats against them, they know the arm angles, they know what the pitches look like, they know the shapes of the pitches. That all helps.”
Cuddyer, a respected veteran in his first season with the Mets, is slated to start the Division Series opener in left field Friday night against Kershaw because he bats from the right side. Impressive rookie Michael Conforto, called up directly from Double-A in late July, hits left-handed and likely will play left field when Greinke takes the ball.
“While I know that this team has faced these pitchers before, I personally haven’t. But they’re pitchers, just like anyone else. They’re going to throw the same pitches,” Mets slugger Yoenis Cespedes said through a translator.
New York won four of seven meetings between the teams this season, all in July before Cespedes arrived from Detroit in a trade that helped transform a punchless Mets lineup into a powerful one. The clubs split the four games started by Kershaw and Greinke.
Collins plans to start three left-handed hitters against Kershaw: Curtis Granderson, Daniel Murphy and Lucas Duda.
On the mound, the Mets will counter with Jacob deGrom (14-8, 2.54 ERA) in the opener followed by hard-throwing rookie Noah Syndergaard (9-7, 3.24) in Game 2.
“I think we’re going to do just fine. I think we’re going to be able to go out there and play our game,” Collins said. “I think you’ve got to like the two guys I’m pitching. I know who we’re facing, and I don’t want to say anything, but they’re facing a couple pretty good guys, too.”
The 66-year-old Collins, the oldest manager in the majors, is set to make his postseason managerial debut. He has deep roots in the Dodgers organization after spending about two decades playing and working in their system.
“I’m a little fired up. When we land in Los Angeles, it’s going to be exciting,” Collins said. “If I had to pick some place I could go in my first playoff game, it would have been against the Los Angeles Dodgers. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m going to enjoy it and get them ready to play.”
NOTES: Collins said Ruben Tejada probably will start at shortstop in the opener and Wilmer Flores should be available off the bench. Flores’ stiff back has loosened but he felt weak recently after losing 10 pounds in five days because of strep throat, Collins said. … OF Kirk Nieuwenhuis made the Division Series roster in place of injured reserve infielder Juan Uribe. … The team brought LHP Sean Gilmartin to Los Angeles as insurance for rookie LHP Steven Matz (back). Gilmartin would be added to the roster if Matz isn’t healthy enough to pitch. … Rookie RHP Erik Goeddel will be in the bullpen. RHP Carlos Torres was left off the roster and sent to the club’s complex in Florida, where he’ll join other Mets working out to stay ready in case they’re needed later in the postseason.
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