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Dodgers, Mets flip roles for Game 2

Dodgers, Mets flip roles for Game 2

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NEW YORK -- Within an hour after the completion of a game played on a sun-splashed Shea Stadium field, the tarp was covering the field at nearby Yankee Stadium and a wet chill gripped Flushing.

Just a reminder how quickly the weather -- and baseball fortunes -- can change around here.

Even when the forecast heavily favors the Mets.

Having prevailed in Wednesday's opener of the National League Division Series with their own green rookie against Dodgers ace Derek Lowe, the Mets try to turn those tables in Thursday night's Game 2.

They throw Tom Glavine and his 290 career wins against Hong-Chih Kuo, the Taiwanese left-hander who owns one win.

Off those numbers, it is difficult to picture a bigger mismatch.

But the number that prompted Los Angeles manager Grady Little to appoint Kuo is 7-15 -- the Mets' record against left-handers since the July 31 deal that sent Xavier Nady to Pittsburgh.

On the surface, it is easy to see why southpaws could be hazardous to the Mets. Some of their biggest guns -- Carlos Delgado, Cliff Floyd, Shawn Green -- swing from the left side. Switch-hitters Carlos Beltran and Jose Valentin both are superior from the left side, where most of Jose Reyes' power is also packed.

David Wright says the Mets are over their yips against lefties.

"Just happened to be that we were struggling against lefties at one time," Wright said following Wednesday's 6-5 victory. "I think we're past that."

Kuo was among those exploiting the Mets' slump against left-handers when, in his Major League starting debut on Sept. 8, he blanked them for the first six innings of a 5-0 victory.

If the Mets prove Wright's words, they could take a commanding 2-0 lead in this best-of-five series, because the Dodgers don't appear armed to survive a battle of the 'pens.

The teams' respective bullpens showed quite a contrast in Game 1. While Mets manager Willie Randolph staged a parade of tough matchup relievers until Aaron Heilman could set up Billy Wagner, Little had to resort to a pair of erstwhile starters.

With the loss of Joe Beimel to a cut finger, Mark Hendrickson was the Dodgers' only situational lefty. And Brad Penny, who'd made only one relief appearance since his 2000 rookie season, entered a 4-4 tie in the seventh.

Of course, Glavine will try to render New York's sharp bullpen moot. The Mets are persevering without Orlando Hernandez, their righty postseason craftsman, but still have Glavine's 32 starts and 12 wins in October.

While Randolph refrains from tweaking his lineup for a left-handed starter, Little is expected to insert Julio Lugo at third base. As did switch-hitting Wilson Betemit in Wednesday's game, Lugo will bat eighth.

Game 1 confirmed the worst fears of a Dodgers team that, while leading the NL with a team batting average of .276, cannot match the Mets' firepower.

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"Coming in, that was our No. 1 target, to see what we could do to stop that lineup over there," said Little, whose club ended the regular season with a weekend sweep in San Francisco while scoring a total of 12 runs in the three games.

"That's certainly not enough against this ballclub here."

Not in position to take any runs off the scoreboard, the Dodgers were blue over the second-inning basepath traffic jam in which they had two runners thrown out at the plate on one hit.

"That was a terrible blunder, and we wound up paying for it," said Little, who by now may wish to simply be allowed to lose postseason games without complications.

The last playoff contest he managed, of course, ended with the Yankees winning in extra innings after having tied the game with an eighth-inning rally off weary Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez.

As he did in the aftermath of that 2003 AL Championship Series, Little pledged to not be haunted by Wednesday afternoon's events.

"We don't have time for that right now," he said. "We've got to come out [Thursday] and be ready to play another very important game."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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