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Mailbag: Are Mets playoff underdogs?

Mailbag: Are Mets playoff underdogs?

NEW YORK -- The air was a little cooler, and heavier, for Game 2 of the best-of-five National League Division Series on Thursday night, but the playoff atmosphere was sizzling again at Shea Stadium.

Another record Division Series crowd (57,029) was treated to another Mets win, giving the injury-weakened National League East champions a commanding 2-0 lead in the series heading into Friday's off-day and Saturday's Game 3 at Dodger Stadium.

The last time a team lost the first two games in a Division Series and came back to win was the Boston Red Sox in 2003. They dropped the first two games to the Oakland Athletics, but then roared back to win three straight and advance to the American League Championship Series.

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The manager was Grady Little.

So this series already has a familiar look to it for the Dodgers' first-year skipper, who has a lot of questions heading into Game 3.

But there are many questions to be asked during this Division Series -- from writers, broadcasters and especially the fans. So, sit back, enjoy the action, log on to your computer and ask away. We're here to answer as many questions as possible.

Why did Willie Randolph start Endy Chavez over Shawn Green in right field for Game 2? Green's numbers against the Dodgers this year have been phenomenal.
-- Adam, Queensbury, N.Y.

Green's numbers against the Dodgers are outstanding all right, but in the bigger picture, Chavez hit left-handed pitchers better than Green. Chavez was 26-for-78 (.333) against lefties during the regular season, while Green was 44-for-165 (.267). Chavez also gives the Mets more speed on the bases, stealing 12 bases compared to four by Green. Therefore, with the Dodgers starting lefty Hong-Chih Kuo, Randolph decided that Chavez, who batted .306 overall this season, was the right guy for right field. Chavez proved that it was a good move as he went 2-for-4 and scored the first run of the game.

After the first pitch of the game, why did Dodgers manager Grady Little appear to question the lineup with the plate umpire?
-- Ron, Ramona, Calif.


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Who's going to win this series? Who's the best player? Why'd the manager make that move? If game stories and features aren't enough for you and you want more, e-mail MLB.com's Jim Street at mlbjstreet@aol.com. After the game, before it, even while the action is going on. Send in your question (make sure the subject line contains NLDS Mailbag), and Street will answer selected queries in a regular mailbag right here on MLB.com.

I was wondering the same thing. Whenever that happens so early in the game, it almost always has something to do with a lineup discrepancy. After the game, Little explained, saying, "I guess it was a bookkeeping error from the other side, because the lineup card that we got was not the exact one the umpire had, the official one. I guess they had a late scratch from their lineup or something, but it was nothing major. That's what happens when you start using these computers to do these lineup cards." The lineup the Dodgers received had Green playing right field, but the "official" lineup had Chavez out there. Because the umpire had the correct lineup, Little walked back to the visiting dugout and the game continued.

With Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez out of the Division Series because of injuries, do the Mets have less pressure on them? They might consider themselves underdogs instead of favorites and therefore are playing looser than the Dodgers.
-- Mike, Temecula, Calif.

Well, Mike, you could be right on the money. In the 1972 World Series, the Oakland Athletics didn't have Reggie Jackson available because he was injured in the final game of the American League Championship Series, and they still beat the Cincinnati Reds. Good teams have a way of overcoming adversity, and the Mets certainly should be used to it by now. They have been extremely resilient all season, and the postseason apparently will be the same.

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Do you think Grady Little will play someone other than Kenny Lofton in center field in Game 3?
-- Alex, Los Angeles

I am sure that is one of the many things Little will have on his mind during the team's long flight home from New York on Thursday night. Lofton has been a non-factor so far, going 0-for-8 with four strikeouts as the No. 2 hitter. But by carrying 12 pitchers, there isn't a lot Little can do. One of his options would be to play Jason Repko in center, but he bats right-handed and the Mets are starting right-hander Steve Trachsel, and Lofton has a .480 (12-for-25) career batting average against the Mets pitcher, while Repko never has faced Trachsel.

What happens if Nomar Garciaparra can't play in Game 3?
-- Bill, Ventura, Calif.

My guess is that Little would play James Loney at first base. The rookie is a left-handed hitter who tied a club record with nine RBIs in a game against the Rockies on Sept. 28. He led the Pacific Coast League in batting this season with a .380 average and hit .284 in 48 games with the Dodgers. This is a much bigger stage, however, and expecting him to lead the offense could be asking too much. Even so, a hobbling Garciaparra might be a worse alternative.

Jim Street 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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