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Dodgers-Mets: A matchup of a "struggling" MVP and a promising rookie

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USA TODAY Sports

The New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers will meet Friday at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN/WatchESPN. Rookie Noah Syndergaard will get the start for the Mets opposite reigning National League Cy Young Award winner and MVP Clayton Kershaw.

Here are the top stats to know about Friday’s starters.

Clayton Kershaw

Kershaw on Saturday lost a third consecutive start for the first time in his career. He also has a losing record past June 1, something the Dodgers ace hasn’t done since the 2009 season.

So should fans be worried about one of the best pitchers in baseball? Of course not.

Over his last five starts, Kershaw has a 2.08 ERA and an NL-best 13.0 strikeouts per 9 innings. Opponents are batting .174 against Kershaw during that span, third in Major League Baseball.

The catch is that he has received just 2.6 runs of support per game over his last five starts.

And while the win-loss record may not reflect it, Kershaw’s pitching is getting better as the season progresses. In April and May, Kershaw had a 3.86 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP. He posted a 2.16 ERA and a 0.84 WHIP in June.

Kershaw’s ERA and WHIP have dropped as his breaking balls (curveballs and sliders) have improved this season. Opponents batted .241 against Kershaw’s breaking balls in April, .175 in May and .116 in June. The slider in particular was left up and over the plate early in the season but Kershaw has located it out of the reach of lefties and down and in against righties over the last month.

Noah Syndergaard

The Mets rookie enters Friday’s start with a 3.59 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 52 2/3 innings pitched.

Since the start of play on May 12 when he debuted, Syndergaard ranks 24th in strikeout percentage (24 percent) and 21st in walk percentage (4.5 percent) among 112 qualified starters. His strikeout-to-walk ratio of 5.3 ranks eighth among NL starters during that time.

Syndergaard saw a huge spike in opponent BABIP (batting average on balls in play) in his first two months. After limiting opponents to a .226 batting average on a .282 BABIP in May, Syndergaard allowed a .380 BABIP and .295 BA in June.

Opponents actually made hard contact on a lower percentage of balls in play against Syndergaard in June. They also hit fewer fly balls and more ground balls/pop-ups, despite the bad results on balls in play and higher ERA.

On top of all that, Syndergaard’s strikeout percentage rose four percentage points to 25.8 percent in June while his walk percentage dropped from 5.0 to 4.2 percent.

Syndergaard has a tough task against a Dodgers offense that averages 4.6 runs per game at home (fourth in NL), but his peripheral numbers suggest he will bounce back before long.

Did you know?

Three Dodgers pitchers began their careers with five straight winning decisions against the Mets - Sandy Koufax (13), Clayton Kershaw (five) and Ron Perranoski (five).