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For Inspiration, the Mets Just Need To Look to the Other Side of the Field

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 18:  Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates an Orlando Hudson at bat resulting in a fielder's choice and error to score Mark Loretta #5 with the bases loaded in the 11th inning in front of Carlos Beltran #15 of the New York Mets at Dodger Stadium on May 18, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Tim CiruleContributor IMay 20, 2009

They're facing the reality of losing their middle-of-the-lineup slugger for two months.  The $12 million flame-throwing starting pitcher is on the DL.  The leadoff hitting shortstop has been injured and inconsistent to start the year. 

They have to rely on a small-ball offense with consistent production from the entire lineup and a bullpen lead by a flame-throwing closer.

And despite all of that, the Dodgers have the best record in baseball.

What?  I bet you thought I was talking about the Mets, weren't you?

If you look at the two teams that are going into the last game of their series at Chavez Ravine, you can see a lot of comparisons between the two teams.  So why do the Dodgers have a comfortable lead in the NL West, while the Mets are struggling to stay close to the top of the NL East?

It's a matter of taking advantage of opportunities, stabilizing the lineup, and playing smart team-oriented baseball.

The first two games of the series have been proof that, as similar as these two teams are, they are both very different.  The Dodgers have played fundamentally sound baseball.  Multiple players have contributed.  Looking at the lineup, there is nobody that sends fear into the hearts of pitching around the league (a middle of the lineup consisting of Orlando Hudson, Andre Ethier, and Russell Martin is not particularly gut-wrenching).

More importantly, they have not consistently shot themselves in the foot and cost the team opportunities to win.

The Mets, on the other hand, have committed six errors in two games, left numerous runners on base in scoring position, and have made base-running error after base-running error, highlighted by Ryan Church's brain fart Monday night and two runners getting caught in rundowns last night. 

The Dodgers have lost Leftfielder Manny Ramirez to suspension and Pitcher Hiroki Kuroda to injury.  Shortstop Rafael Fucal has been struggling with injuries and inconsistent play to start the season.  They've responded by putting Juan Pierre in the leadoff spot and going into their farm system to fill Kuroda's spot in the rotation, allowing the rest of the team to function as usual while making very few changes.

The Mets have lost Carlos Delgado and Oliver Perez to injury and have had to work around Jose Reyes' struggles at the plate and on the basepaths.  They've responded by adjusting the lineup time and time again, playing multiple people out of position, and making costly mistake after costly mistake.

What is the cause of this?  Differences in depth, leadership or maybe the management styles between Joe Torre and Jerry Manuel?  It is a weak NL West vs. strong NL East or a combination of all of the above? 

Anyway you look at it, the Mets have to accept the fact that they have to deal with the injuries that have befallen them, play smart baseball, and take maximum advantage of the talents and abilities that they do have to work with.

If they don't think it can be done, just look across the field into the dugout of the team they are playing tonight.  That's what the Dodgers are doing.

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