The Dodgers can only hope there is no play as comical Friday as there was the last time they opened a postseason series against the New York Mets.
In the first game of the 2006 division series, the Dodgers had Jeff Kent and J.D. Drew thrown out at home plate — on the same play.
“We spent the whole season in L.A., so we certainly know what a traffic jam is,” then-Dodgers Manager Grady Little said after that game. “We had one right there, and it cost us.”
The Dodgers lost that game by one run. They lost the series too.
Since then, the Dodgers have played 30 postseason games. The Mets have played none. That is not a drought well tolerated by any fan base, “especially for a franchise like this,” said David Wright, the Mets’ third baseman then and now.
“You think that, in ’06, it’s the beginning of something. As a young player, I fell into this trap too — I just assumed this was going to be an annual thing. We fell apart down the stretch in ’07. In ’08, we just didn’t have the firepower. And then we took some big steps back, starting in ’09. You fast forward nine years, and here we are.
“This city, this fan base, has waited quite a bit of time and has experienced some pretty bad seasons, some ugly seasons. To get back to the point where at the beginning of the year, people probably looked past the New York Mets and said, ‘You know, they’re probably going to be a pretty good team, but they’re not going to be a playoff team.’
“To accomplish that, yeah, it’s big for our city, it’s big for our fan base, it’s big for our organization.”
If the Mets are not just happy to be here, then here are some questions:
How will they score?
The Mets ended the season by scoring two runs in their last 43 innings. They would like to consider that a post-clinching anomaly. They were the lowest-scoring team in the National League over the first four months of the season, the highest-scoring team over the final two months. Clayton Kershaw faced the Mets in July and gave up one run in seven innings, but since then the Mets’ lineup has been upgraded at four positions: Wright for Wilmer Flores in the infield; Travis d’Arnaud for Kevin Plawecki at catcher; and Yoenis Cespedes and a platoon of Michael Cuddyer and Michael Conforto in the outfield for Juan Lagares and John Mayberry. The Mets’ .312 on-base percentage is the lowest of any team in the postseason.
Is the team healthy?
Steven Matz, the Mets’ preferred Game 4 starter, has experienced back stiffness but reported no trouble after throwing a simulated game Thursday in Florida. Matz, a rookie, would be the only left-hander in the Mets’ rotation. Juan Uribe, who opened the season as the Dodgers’ third baseman before trades to the Atlanta Braves and then the Mets, is out for the series because of an injury to his chest cartilage.
Who could be the X-factor?
Curtis Granderson is not a prototype leadoff hitter, and he has struggled mightily against Kershaw and Zack Greinke, the Dodgers’ starters in the first two games. In 11 plate appearances against Kershaw, Granderson has one hit — a single — and one walk. In 55 plate appearances against Greinke, Granderson is batting .192, with 11 strikeouts. So few runs figure to be scored in this series that Granderson getting on base ahead of any home run would be huge.
Who are the newcomers to watch?
DeGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey and probably Matz will get the starts. DeGrom made his major league debut 17 months ago, Syndergaard five months ago, Matz four months ago.
What about management?
After managing 1,688 major league games, Terry Collins will direct his first postseason game Friday. Collins has done a fine job keeping his famously charged emotions in check, but he did not sugarcoat his comments after Harvey showed up late for a workout this week. In October, when every moment is magnified, the Mets need Collins to deflect the spotlight, not attract it.
Curiously, even though Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly has led his team to three postseason appearances in a row for the first time in the history of the franchise, Collins appears to be the manager in this series with the greatest job security.
Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin