It's been a while since Curtis Granderson faced Zack Greinke -- the bulk of their history came when the outfielder played in Detroit and the hurler was with Kansas City toward the end of last decade -- but if recent results are any indication, the Dodgers' right-handed ace is as dominant now as Granderson recalls.
"From what I remember then, he's aggressive, he's confident, he challenged, threw strikes," said Granderson, a career .179 hitter against Greinke in 42 plate appearances, more than any of his teammates. "He typically kept his pitch count down and stayed in the ballgame late."
Greinke has done all of those things and more this season, and will look to continue those trends Thursday night, when he takes to the mound against lefty Jon Niese and the Mets at Citi Field. The Dodgers will be looking for the series sweep following a 4-3 win Wednesday.
The D-backs were Greinke's most recent victims. He scattered five hits and two walks over eight scoreless innings Friday in Arizona, the ninth time in as many starts this season he has allowed two runs or fewer.
With a 2.03 ERA and 5.1 strikeout-to-walk ratio -- and also taking the team's health into consideration -- Greinke has been the Dodgers' best starter in 2014.
"If you've got a hole, he can find it," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "So he's able to exploit weaknesses of the other team, and he studies so he knows what those weaknesses are. It's pretty simple between stuff and the work that he does. He's a tough guy to get to."
New York counters with Niese, the owner of a 2.54 ERA and 1.19 WHIP who is fresh off of his shortest outing of the season -- four innings in a 5-2 loss to the Nationals. A return to the form that has led to opponents scoring two or fewer runs in two-thirds of his starts would be significant for Niese, not to mention his reeling team.
The Mets are a season-worst five games below .500 and, having already dropped the first two contests against the Dodgers, have lost four straight series and 11 of their last 12 against Los Angeles dating back to July 2012.
A handful of Mets, however, have had fine games this week. Wilmer Flores, who has a hit in four of his last five games, is 4-for-7 in this series while turning in a couple of nifty plays at shortstop, where his developing defense is often a topic of conversation.
Juan Lagares, who returned to the team Wednesday from a trip to mourn a death in the family, went 3-for-5, including a perfect bunt single down the third-base line and a triple to right-center. The three hits tied his career high.
Dodgers: Gordon's work paying off
As far as Mattingly is concerned, second baseman Dee Gordon's emergence as the team's dynamic leadoff man this season, his first as a full-time big leaguer, is due entirely to Dee Gordon.
"He's the one who went to winter ball, he played some center field a little bit last year, came back," Mattingly said. "He did the work, came to Spring Training and worked.
"So I think he's been the key. He's just been maturing. He's working on his swing, he's hitting the ball on the ground a lot more, he's continuing to work on his bunting. I think he's the reason he's doing so well."
The average (.296) and extra-base hits (eight doubles, three triples, one homer) are there this season, but what might be most impressive is his penchant for swiping bags. Gordon has stolen a Major League-leading 25 bases while getting caught only three times.
"He's not afraid of anybody," Mattingly said. "His percentages are showing he's going to get you. For the most part, there's not a lot you can do about it. He's been patient with the guys that you can't run on, but there are very few of those guys that are fast enough to keep him from running."
Mets: Wright struggling to find his way
That the first quarter of David Wright's season has been subpar is no secret. But what is a secret, apparently, is how to fix it.
Prior to his 3-for-5 game Wednesday, the Mets' captain was hitting .285 with a .328 on-base percentage and .371 slugging mark, all well below his career averages. Specifically, Wright has had trouble driving the ball for extra bases. Since Opening Day, he has homered once and averaged one extra-base hit every four games.
"I can go back and give you five or six instances where he made great contact. The ball got caught," manager Terry Collins said. "The fact that he's not hitting it into the seats, I can't [explain]. Maybe they're just pitching him real well. He's the guy that stands out in the lineup as the one guy you have to get out.
"I think David's being pitched tough. They're probably saying right now, 'If you walk him, you walk him. But don't let him do too much damage.'"
Wright has walked 11 times in 45 games for a 5.5 percent walk rate, lower than in any of his full Major League seasons.
• First baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who has a home run in three consecutive games, leads the Dodgers with 12 this season.
• Mets first baseman Eric Campbell is hitting .438 (7-for-16) with a homer, two doubles and five RBIs in seven games since his callup this month.
• Mets reliever Jenrry Mejia threw eight pitches in a scoreless ninth inning Wednesday. Pitching back-to-back games is the next test in his continued transition to the closer role.
Tim Healey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.