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Ace pitchers face off in Dodgers-Mets opener
As Dallas Keuchel and Jake Arrieta proved earlier this week, pitching usually carries the day in the baseball postseason.
That figures to be the case again in Game 1 of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on Friday, when the reigning NL Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner, Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw, squares off with the reigning NL Rookie of the Year, New York Mets right-hander Jacob deGrom.
“I mean, he’s one of the best pitchers in the game if not the best,” deGrom said of Kershaw. “The way he takes the mound, he goes out there and attacks hitters. I think 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.”
Kershaw was similarly complimentary of his Friday opponent.
“I got to talk to him a little bit in Cincinnati (at the All-Star Game) this year, and obviously watching him pitch over the last couple seasons. It’s just an explosive fastball,” Kershaw said. “I think that’s where you start with his fastball. Just the carry and the ride that it has on it, the ball that looks like it’s at your shins or ankles seems like he gets a lot of called strikes there. The (batters) think the ball is down. Same thing with the ball up, you think you can catch up to it and guys swing through it a lot for strikeouts.
“So those two things combined with the commands, able to hit the outside, inside corner, this whole season pretty well. Then his off-speed pitches too, have gotten … better from last year. So we definitely have a challenge. This whole series, the three, four guys they’re throwing at us are pretty solid.”
Kershaw went 16-7 with a 2.13 ERA this year, leading the majors with 301 strikeouts. In his last 24 starts, he was 14-4 with a 1.39 ERA.
DeGrom finished 14-8 with a 2.54 ERA in the regular season. He allowed more than two runs only three times in his final 14 starts.
Both teams enter the series relatively healthy, with Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig expected to be on the team’s roster despite missing nearly all of the past month with a strained right hamstring. He returned to play the last two regular-season games, and he announced earlier this week that he would be ready for the NLDS.
Mets infielder Juan Uribe will miss the series due to a chest contusion. However, considering his mediocre production since joining New York in a midseason trade with the Atlanta Braves (.219 average, .301 on-base percentage, .430 slugging percentage with six home runs and 20 RBIs in 44 games), his bat won’t be missed much.