Quick Preview: Mets vs. Dodgers
After nearly sweeping the Giants, the Mets have positioned themselves among the NL elite. For the next three days they face another of the “elite”, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
However, the Mannyless Dodgers are 5-5, though they remain in first place in the NL West. (BTW, did you know that Manny didn’t actually fail the drug test? Interesting story here.) The Mets are Delgadoless, and have been Reyesless (and Putzless for two days), yet it hasn’t had an effect on their win-loss record. In fact, the team is 3-1 without Reyes and 4-3 since Delgado’s last game. Reyes is expected to return for the LA series, while Delgado is on the DL. Let’s look at the pitching matchups.
Game one: Tim Redding (0-0) vs. Randy Wolf (2-1, 2.77 ERA)
Hard to say what Tim Redding will do. When he wasn’t injured during spring training, he was awful. So awful, in fact, that the nearly as awful Freddy Garcia appeared to have a shot at making the roster (before Livan Hernandez came to the rescue). Redding made two starts for AAA Buffalo, pitching 13 innings, allowing 13 hits, 2 walks, 1 HR, 4 runs, striking out 9. Wolf’s record thus far looks great, but the Dodgers are 4-4 in his 8 starts. Over the last three years, he’s 5-0 against the Mets with a 3.60 ERA. Luis Castillo is hitting .409 lifetime vs. Wolf over 49 at-bats, Carlos Beltran rips him to the tune of .379.
Game two: John Maine (3-2, 4.20 ERA) vs. Chad Billingsley(5-1, 2.30 ERA)
This is not exactly the matchup the Mets would want, but the way Maine has been pitching lately, it’s hard to say the Dodgers have an edge. Maine has won three of his last four starts and gone 6 innings or more in each of them. Meanwhile, Billingsley has assumed the role of ace, pitching 7 or more innings in 6 of his 8 starts, striking out 56 in 54 innings, holding opposing batters to a .206 average and posting a 1.12 WHIP. Interestingly, three of the Mets who have hit him well are on the DL (Brian Schneider, .300; Carlos Delgado, .400) or in the minors (Cory Sullivan, 5-for-8 with a HR).
Game three: Livan Hernandez (3-1, 5.59 ERA) vs. Eric Stults (4-1, 3.82 ERA)
This matchup looks pretty even, on paper … in fact, the Mets may have the edge. Hernandez has had a few bad outings, but all in all, has given the Mets better than decent performance for a #5 starter. Personally, I feel like the Mets have a chance to win when he’s on the mound. Similarly, Stults is providing decent performance as a back-end starter for the Dodgers, though he rarely gets past the fifth inning. He had one outstanding, 4-hit shutout against the Giants, but has otherwise been just good enough to give his team a chance to win — LA is 6-1 in his starts. It should be noted that Stults sprained his thumb on May 17th, and could miss this start; if so, Jeff Weaver will take his place (stop salivating).
Even without Manny, the Dodgers would, from this perspective, appear to be a stronger team than the Giants. That’s not to say the Mets can’t win this series, but at minimum LA should put up a better fight. The starting pitching matchups are fairly even, and the bullpens are comparable — though assuming J.J. Putz is healthy, the Mets should have an edge in the final two innings. The Dodgers have a lot of “character” or “gritty” guys that I like — Casey Blake, Russell Martin, Blake DeWitt, Mark Loretta, and Orlando Hudson for example — but they have to prove they can win without Manny, who was the lynchpin of their success. Similarly, the Mets will have to learn to win without Delgado — though he was hardly missed over the last week. Because Manny’s not around, I wouldn’t qualify this series as a “test”, though it is an appropriate “pre-test” for the one coming up in Boston.