LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Regardless of what you think of Chase Utley’s slide that ended up giving the Dodgers a critical Game 2 win, the series is tied 2-2 and headed to a Game 5 in Los Angeles on Thursday.
The Dodgers will send Game 2 winner Zack Greinke to the mound, while the Mets will send Game 1 winner Jacob deGrom to the mound to face the Dodgers.
The series has been extremely tight throughout the four games that have been played so far.
The only game that was decided by more than three runs was game 3, when Dodgers pitcher Brett Anderson pitched just three innings.
“As good as Zack is and has been the whole year, deGrom has been the same, so there’s really no home-field advantage when you’re facing a guy like deGrom,” Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said.
“We saw that in Game 1. He’s just very impressive, just very tough to square up. If you can get strikeouts on heaters like he can, it’s really tough.”
Here are the six keys for the Dodgers to win Game 5 and advance to the NLCS against the Cubs.
6. Dodgers can’t get behind early
When the Dodgers get behind in a game early, their entire mindset changes.
The team plays like they are standing on pins and needles.
The fans get nervous, the atmosphere gets uncomfortable and the team isn’t the same. For a ball park the size of Dodger Stadium, the lack of momentum can be felt when the crowd is not into the game.
When the Dodgers get behind early, it’s almost as if they start counting down how many outs they have left. What’s worse, as was the case in Game 3, this trend is amplified when the Dodgers grab then lose a lead.
In Game 3, the Dodgers jumped out to an early 3-0 lead. They seemed to become reliant on it, as when they lost it, they suddenly couldn’t pitch or hit.
It will be monumental for the team if they can jump out early in front of a home crowd.
5. Perform with runners in scoring position
The Dodgers only scored one run while collecting seven hits in Game 1.
Dodger hitters went 1-for-8 in Game 1 with runners in scoring position and left seven men on base.
If they are going to beat deGrom, they are going to have to capitalize on more than one scoring chance per game. This means the middle of the lineup will have to come through in some possibly clutch situations.
However, this also means the top of the lineup will have to put themselves in scoring position.
Against a pitcher like deGrom, the Dodgers will not be able to depend solely on the long ball, as they did in the first quarter of the season.
4. Contain Curtis Granderson
The Mets leadoff hitter is hitting .429 in the series with five RBIs.
Granderson is 6-14 through four games and has tallied three walks.
The Dodgers have to keep Granderson off the base paths in order to limit the Mets’ scoring opportunities, and that starts with retiring the bottom of the order.
Granderson has not scored a run, but has five RBIs, meaning he is coming to the plate with runners on base and is delivering.
3. Figure out Jacob deGrom
Jacob deGrom struck out 13 batters over seven innings pitched in his Game 1 outing against the Dodgers.
DeGrom only allowed five hits and one walk on his way to earning his first postseason victory after stymieing the Dodgers’ hitters.
Now that the team has faced him once recently, Dodgers hitters should at the very least know what to expect from deGrom.
2. Greinke has to keep the ball inside the stadium
In Game 2, Greinke surrendered solo home runs to Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto in the second inning, which ended up being the only runs he would allow over his seven innings pitched.
Aside from the two solo home runs, Greinke allowed just three singles for the remainder of the game.
The MLB leader in ERA during the regular season only allowed 41 earned runs over the course of the year but did allow 14 home runs.
If Greinke can keep the ball inside the park Thursday, expect nothing short of brilliance from the Cy Young candidate.
1.Mattingly can’t fool around with the bullpen
This is not the time for Don Mattingly to hold back.
Ideally, Greinke pitches through the seventh inning, and then the only pitchers used in relief are either Chris Hatcher or Luis Avilan for the eighth, and then Kenley Jansen for the ninth.
Jansen has said that he is capable of pitching more than one inning, and in the most important game of the season, it’s time to trust your best reliever, not rely on a committee of secondary pitchers.
The Dodgers’ major weakness this season has been its bullpen, so in the most critical of situations, why would you entrust your season to anyone else but Jansen?
Hatcher and Avilan have pitched well recently, but if they enter in the eighth inning and show any signs of trouble, Mattingly should go to his closer.
Jansen has not allowed a hit in his 2 1/3 innings pitched against the Mets this series as he has recorded saves in both Dodgers victories.
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