By any standards, it would take an upset of major proportions for the Los Angeles Dodgers to beat the New York Mets in the National League Championship Series beginning here tonight. The Mets won 10 of 11 regular-season meetings (one was rained out and never rescheduled), outscoring the Dodgers 49-18, and outhomering them 10-2. Even rookie New York shortstop Kevin Elster, who never terrorized anyone else, hit three home runs against Los Angeles.
The home field advantage doesn't appear to mean much in this case, either, since the Mets won every game they played in Dodger Stadium. The lone L.A. victory in the series came more than four months ago, on June 1, in Shea Stadium.
Even 23-game winner Orel Hershiser, manager Tommy Lasorda's meal ticket, and a prime Cy Young Award candidate, had a losing record against the Mets.
On the other side, Dwight Gooden (18-9), who will start tonight's opener for New York, says Dodger Stadium is his favorite park on the road. Gooden is 3-0 this season against the Dodgers, including a shutout plus two other games in which he allowed only single runs.
Unfortunately for the Dodgers, the vein of quality that runs through manager Davey Johnson's pitching staff only begins with Gooden. Met pitchers have recorded 22 shutouts this season. The other starters include Dave Cone (20-3 with a 2.22 ERA), Ron Darling (17-9), and left-hander Sid Fernandez (12-10). Most southpaws beat the Dodgers just by showing up.
Ordinarily another left-hander, Bob Ojeda, would be the No. 4 man, but a freak power saw accident sidelined him for the season, bringing Fernandez, a former starter who had been shifted to the bullpen, back into the rotation.
The Mets also have what most experts consider the most effective relief corps in the league. The names to remember are Randy Myers (24 saves), Roger McDowell (16), and Terry Leach.