NEW YORK -- The World Series begins in less than two weeks, but it seems more like summer than fall in the Big Apple.

Both of New York's Major League Baseball teams are playing home games this week, bringing a big smile from the sun on Wednesday afternoon as the best-of-five Division Series between the National League East champion Mets and Wild Card Los Angeles Dodgers began with a first-pitch temperature of 79 degrees at Shea Stadium.

The Mets played their first postseason game since Oct. 26, 2000, and more than 56,000 fans filled a facility that soon will be replaced by a new playground located beyond the right-field fence. Construction cranes already have arrived, increasing anticipation of the April 2009 opening.

The big question going into Game 1 was whether Mets right-hander Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez would be able to start the game as scheduled. He felt discomfort in his left calf during Tuesday's workout and underwent an MRI exam.

That question was answered mid-morning, when the Mets announced that Hernandez had a torn muscle in his right calf and had to be scratched from the start and the 25-man Division Series roster.

There are many more questions to be asked during this Division Series -- from writers, broadcasters and especially the fans. So, sit back, enjoy the action, log on to your computer and ask away. We're here to answer as many questions as possible.

Why did Grady Little bring in Brad Penny to start the seventh? He has not pitched well in quite a while.
-- Jose, Los Angeles

Penny won 16 games for the Dodgers this season, tying for the most wins in the NL. Sure, he has experienced back problems throughout the season, but he has felt fine the past few days and was ready to go on Wednesday. Little said after the game that Penny "was our best option right there, and he was throwing the ball very well. The key to his inning was missing on a 3-2 pitch to [Jose] Reyes. He was throwing the ball as well as we've seen him lately, and he certainly showed us that his back is healthy."

It is known that the Mets have an excellent bullpen, but do you think it was wise to keep Royce Ring on the roster? Anderson Hernandez would have been a better choice for the roster because, while the starting pitching is suffering, having that extra bat on the bench will give the Mets more of an important offensive option (and defensive as well) rather than worry about relief pitching. Wouldn't that have made more sense?
-- Rajiv, Bloomfield, N.J.


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Who's going to win this series? Who's the best player? Why'd the manager make that move? If game stories and features aren't enough for you and you want more, e-mail MLB.com's Jim Street at mlbjstreet@aol.com. After the game, before it, even while the action is going on. Send in your question (make sure the subject line contains NLDS Mailbag), and Street will answer selected queries in a regular mailbag right here on MLB.com.

Pitching is the name of the game, especially in a best-of-five series, and injuries to starters Pedro Martinez and Hernandez left manager Willie Randolph with little choice but to go with an extra arm in this series instead of a spare bat on the bench. Innings that the Mets could count on getting from veterans like Martinez and El Duque are not there. Also, veteran starters Tom Glavine and Steve Trachsel had one complete game between them in 62 regular-season starts this season. Ring spent most of the regular season at the Triple-A level, but he pitched 11 innings for the Mets and had a 2.13 ERA.

Why the 1 p.m. PT weekday start times out here on the West Coast? Most of us die-hard Dodgers fans miss the games because we have to work, or else call in sick.
-- Mark, Los Angeles

Sorry 'bout that, Mark, but television ratings have top priority during the playoffs, and anytime the Yankees are involved, they get top billing. Love them or not, put the Yankees on primetime TV and fans will tune in, which makes the other playoff series second bananas, at best. The Mets and Dodgers are the "No. 2 seed" in TV talk, so Game 1 of the Division Series started at 4 p.m. on the East Coast, but because the Yankees were originally scheduled to be idle on Thursday before Wednesday's rainout forced their second game to shift to Thursday afternoon, Game 2 of the Dodgers-Mets series is the primetime (5 p.m. PT) broadcast.

Just want to know what's going on with Eric Gagne, health-wise. I was bummed in 2004 when he was unable to let loose on the Cards, and now this year again he isn't able to play. Not to take anything away from Takashi Saito, but Gagne has earned it.
-- Melky, Los Angeles

Gagne continues to recover from the two surgeries he had this year and currently is with the team during the NLDS, relegated to being a cheerleader. It definitely is a bummer that he can't participate in the postseason, but Saito has emerged as a dependable closer, relying more on pitch location than an overpowering fastball. For him to handle the closer job this season, when Gagne couldn't, also would suggest that Saito has earned this opportunity.

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While it's perfectly clear, and fully explained, why Tom Glavine is starting Game 2 in the NLDS for the Mets, why have the Dodgers switched Greg Maddux to Game 3? Mets fans had been salivating openly for a "Dream" postseason matchup of Glavine vs. Maddux. So, simply, my question is ... Why the switch by the Dodgers?
-- Bob, Toms River, N.J.

The Dodgers actually have had Maddux pegged for Game 3 all along, so I'm not sure where you're getting your info. With Maddux scheduled to start just one game in this best-of-five series, Little preferred to have him pitch in Dodger Stadium, where he had a 3-1 record and 1.76 ERA during the regular season. Furthermore, L.A.'s Game 2 starter, left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo, tossed six scoreless innings against the Mets at Shea Stadium on Sept. 8 for his first Major League win.

If (when) the Dodgers win the World Series, does everyone get a ring, or only the 25 players on the postseason roster?
-- Mike, San Luis Obispo, Calif.

That decision is up to ownership. Most teams give players, scouts and front-office employees a World Series ring, one of the most coveted pieces of jewelry in the sports world.