|Dodgers, Mets headed in starkly different directions|
NEW YORK - There's no better indicator of the different directions in which the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets are headed than the main topic of conversations following Saturday night's game, when the Dodgers were excited by the return of their Hall of Fame-bound ace and the Mets were pondering if the pitcher with the second-worst ERA in team history would have to start in place of the pitcher with the worst ERA in team history.
The Dodgers will look to complete a sweep of the reeling Mets Sunday afternoon, when the two teams play the finale of a three-game series at Citi Field.
The Dodgers hit a game-breaking grand slam for the second straight game Saturday, when Matt Kemp's pinch-hit blast off Robert Gsellman in the eighth inning provided insurance and then some in an 8-3 win. On Friday, Cody Bellinger snapped a scoreless tie with a sixth-inning grand slam off Zack Wheeler in a 5-2 victory.
The big news Saturday for the Dodgers (40-35), who have gone 24-9 since May 17, was the return of ace left-hander Clayton Kershaw, who missed the previous three-plus weeks due to a lower back strain. Kershaw allowed two runs in three innings in his first start since May 31.
Manager Dave Roberts said afterward he expected Kershaw to start again on Thursday or Friday.
"To not just have the mindset that I can keep going and know that at some point the plug is going to be pulled, that's got to be tough for the psyche," Roberts said of the famously competitive Kershaw. "But I think for me, for us, it's just more of having him out there is such a plus and just a boost for all of our guys."
If the Mets (31-43), who have lost five straight and are 20-41 since an 11-1 start, are going to get a badly needed boost Sunday, they'll receive it from an unknown and unlikely source.
Manager Mickey Callaway said Saturday night that Jason Vargas, who was scheduled to start Sunday, will be placed on the disabled list with an injury he suffered while doing conditioning work earlier this week.
Callaway said the Mets have yet to decide who will start.
Right-hander Chris Flexen will be recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas to replace Vargas on the active roster and is a candidate to start.
Vargas is 2-6 with an 8.60 ERA in nine starts this season and has a 9.38 ERA in 11 career starts with the Mets, for whom he also pitched briefly in 2007. Vargas' ERA is the highest for any Mets pitcher who has thrown at least 40 innings for the team.
The second-highest ERA in Mets history belongs to Flexen, who has an 11.57 ERA in two appearances this season and an 8.05 ERA in 16 games (nine starts) dating back to last season. Flexen last pitched Thursday, when he got the final out of the Mets' 4-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies before being optioned to Las Vegas.
"We're going to see when guys come in (and) play catch," Callaway said. "Our bullpen's obviously thrown some innings and we're going to see how everybody's feeling when they come in (Sunday) and make that decision then."
Another possibility to draw the start or to pitch extended innings in relief is rookie Tim Peterson.
He last pitched Thursday, when he tossed 1 1/3 perfect innings against the Rockies and has a 1.17 ERA in five games. The only other Mets reliever to not pitch Friday or Saturday is closer Jeurys Familia.
Whomever pitches for the Mets will oppose Dodgers left-hander Rich Hill (1-2, 4.99 ERA), who is scheduled to make his second start since coming off the disabled list last Tuesday, when he pitched against the Chicago Cubs.
Hill, who missed a month with a blister on his left middle finger, didn't factor into the decision after allowing three hits over six scoreless innings in Los Angeles' 2-1, 10-inning loss.
Hill is 1-2 with an 8.00 ERA in six career games (four starts) against the Mets. Neither Flexen nor Peterson has ever faced the Dodgers.