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Mets take time preparing for NLCS

Mets take time preparing for NLCS

LOS ANGELES -- It happened so quickly, the series already was a blur for some of the Mets by the time they boarded the buses outside Dodger Stadium on Saturday night. A week earlier, they dared not envision a sweep in the National League Division Series. What team thinks in terms of such dominance in the great unknown that is baseball's postseason? Yet sweeps hardly are uncommon in Division Series play.

And, at the same time, they hardly are guarantees of subsequent success.

Introduced in 1995, the best-of-five Division Series has produced 18 sweeps out of a possible 48. Of the teams that swept their first three postseason games, only seven reached the World Series. However, all but one of those seven won the World Series.

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And all that prompts little more than an "Oh yeah?" from these sweeping Mets. Three victories in three games is what they sought, not for reasons of resume or appearance or some statistical sense of probability, but for reasons of rest and realigning their pitching.

They began the series against the Dodgers on Wednesday with their rotation in disarray. They move forward, toward the Championship Series and the Cardinals, with a rotation sequence that has been defined by design not by disaster.

"It's huge that we can have it lined up the way we want," Paul Lo Duca said Saturday in the celebration saturation. "I mean we'd do what we have to, no matter what. But this way we've got Tommy [Glavine] lined up to go in the first game, and we set it up whichever way we want after that."

The Mets' rotation has been an uncertainty for months. And though manager Willie Randolph declined to go beyond Glavine's assignment for Wednesday night at Shea Stadium, the skipper can arrange it in whatever way he and pitching coach Rick Peterson think it will be most advantageous. With the same pitchers available (Glavine, John Maine, Steve Trachsel and Oliver Perez) and the same unavailable (Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hernandez), Randolph and Peterson have zero wiggle room.

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They almost are forced to use Glavine, Maine, Trachsel and Perez in that order. Glavine would start Games 1 and 5, Maine Games 2 and 6, Trachsel Games 3 and 7. Game 4 would be left to Perez, the man least likely. But on a postseason in which Kenny Rogers emerges as a hero, who can say who is likely or unlikely?

Just the same, with Perez pitching Game 4 on the road, the Mets might feel behooved to run off three straight again.

The start for Glavine will be his 16th in NLCS play. The series that now is second in the postseason sequence hasn't been kind to him. His record is 5-9, though his ERA is quite respectable at 3.41. His most recent start in the NLCS came in the decisive Game 5 against the Diamondbacks in 2001. He allowed one earned run in five innings and lost. He won Game 2 that year.

Glavine was thinking Game 1, 2006 as the Mets put away the Dodgers on Saturday.

"I'll enjoy this for a little while," he said during the Mets' celebration. "But you always have one eye on what's ahead. You try to enjoy this as much as you can, but obviously for me, I have one eye on getting prepared for my next start. It's a tempered excitement right now.

"I am looking forward to it. With each step, you get a little bit more anxious and a little bit more excited. This is a big step. The next one would be an even bigger one if we make it through."

Marty Noble 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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