The Associated Press
LOS ANGELES—Clayton Kershaw isn’t sure what to expect from the new-look Mets, whose dramatic transformation in the second half of the season led to an NL East title.
The L.A. Dodgers’ ace faced a mostly different New York lineup before the July trade deadline.
Even veteran Mets’ infielder David Wright was out at the time.
“There’s a lot of guys that I’ll be seeing for the first time this season,” Kershaw noted yesterday.
“Definitely a completely different team.
“Obviously a lot better than what we faced in July,” he added.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, aren’t the same team that got chased out of the Division Series by St. Louis a year ago.
They shipped out Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez, and Juan Uribe (now a Met) while ushering in veterans Jimmy Rollins, Howie Kendrick, and Yasmani Grandal.
When Kershaw takes the mound for tonight’s opener at Dodger Stadium, he’ll be trying to earn just the second post-season win of his career after going 0-4 in his last two series against the Cardinals.
“I definitely remember,” he said. “But it’s a new team, new season and, hopefully for me, a new outcome.”
The Mets won four of seven meetings between the teams—all in that month before Yoenis Cespedes arrived from Detroit in a trade that boosted the Mets’ anemic offence.
They are in the playoffs for the first time in nine years; the Dodgers are making their third-straight appearance for the first time in franchise history.
Kelly Johnson and Uribe joined the Mets shortly before Cespedes—acquisitions manager Terry Collins credited for turning around the team, along with his message to the players: “If you hit, you’ll play.”
“Lucas Duda took off, [Wilmer] Flores took off, Kelly Johnson and Juan kept playing, as well,” Collins noted.
“All of a sudden, guys are looking at their jobs saying, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve got to step up here, and they did.’”
Kershaw will be opposed by Jacob deGrom, last year’s NL Rookie of the Year and a converted infielder who is making his playoff debut.
The right-hander isn’t about to compare himself to Kershaw—last year’s NL MVP and a three-time Cy Young Award winner—except in one area.
“The way he takes the mound, he goes out there and attacks hitters,” deGrom said.
“I try to do the same thing, not get intimidated by anybody who steps in the box and go out there and make your pitches when you need to.”
The teams split the four regular-season games started by Kershaw and Zack Greinke, who will take the mound for the Dodgers in Game 2 tomorrow.
Collins, the oldest manager in the majors at 66, is making his managerial playoff debut with the Mets after previous managing stints in Houston and with the Anaheim Angels.
He plans to start three left-handed hitters against Kershaw: Curtis Granderson, Daniel Murphy, and Lucas Duda, who reminded his manager of his ability to hit against lefties.
“I told him the other day, ‘Remember when you told me you hit lefties?’” Collins said.
“Well, you’re going to face a pretty good one Friday, so you better.”
The Chicago Cubs face the St. Louis Cardinals in the other NLDS, which also opens today.