By: Andrew “Fish” Fain
When it was finally known that the NLDS was going to the Mets and Dodgers, dreams of pitching duels danced in everyone’s head. Game 1 of the series between Clayton Kershaw and Jacob deGrom did not disappoint. As both pitchers were on top of their game, and the Mets won the duel 3-1, with both pitchers combining for 24 strikeouts.
Game 2 promised to be more of the same with Noah Syndergaard facing Zack Grienke. Again, it started out looking much like Game 1. Heading into the bottom of the 7th inning, the Mets were clinging to a 2-1 lead. That’s when all hell broke loose, and the tenor of the entire series changed.
In the bottom of the inning, Dodger catcher Yasmani Grandal whiffed, giving Syndergaard his 9th of the evening. Then Enrique Hernandez drew a walk, bringing up Grienke’s spot in the order. Despite how well he was pitching, Manager Don Mattingly knew that the Dodgers had to generate some offense, so he sent Chase Utley to the dish instead.
With Utley up, Hernandez stole second, and then went to third on a base hit by Utley. That was all she wrote for Syndergaard, as Mets skipper Terry Collins decided to go to veteran Bartolo Colon in this spot. Granted, Colon was usually a starter, but Howie Kendrick who was due up for the Dodgers was only 2-for-22 off of Colon in his career, so Collins thought it was the right move. Little did he know at that time, that decision would change the game, and possibly the entire series.
That’s because Kendrick took Colon’s fifth pitch and hit it up the middle, where Daniel Murphy made a nice stop and tossed it to shortstop Reuben Tejada, as Tejada floated across the bag and did a spin the air to throw the ball to first, Utley went into his slide and took him out. No throw was made, the tying run scored, and Tejada was down for the count.
As Tejada was being tended to on the field, the Dodgers decided to challenge the play at 2nd saying Tejada did not touch the base or the runner. After a long review, it was deemed that the Dodgers were indeed right, and even though Utley also never touched the base, he was awarded 2nd base and the out was taken off the board. So instead of a tie score, two outs and a runner on first, it was a tie score 1 out and runners on 1st and 2nd. Which turned out to be huge, as one out later, Adrian Gonzalez doubled in two and Justin Turner finished the scoring with another double and the Dodgers took game two to even the series, while the Mets were left with a shortstop with a broken leg and a lot of questions.
MLB has since come out and said that Utley’s slide, while not intended to hurt Tejada, was indeed Illegal and he has been suspended for two games. Utley is appealing that decision and is eligible to play until his appeal is heard.
That being said, I think Utley is right. As ugly as the play turned out to be, and as shameful as it is, all of it was within the rules. Utley’s slide was within reach of the bag, so it was legal, albeit barely legal, like if it was 2am and the slide turned 18 at midnight kind of barely legal. Then when you consider how the rule is written, the umpire had no choice to put Utley at 2nd base, once the decision was made on the field that the slide was legal. Now of course, that is being revisited, but at the time, the umpires made the correct call with the evidence they had been given.
Of course, Mets fans think this is the biggest Screw job since Brett Hart lost the WWE Title to Shaun Michaels in Montreal. Especially considering it was Utley who did this and when he was with the Phillies, he not only killed the Mets with his bat, but they had also accused him of some shenanigans on the base paths then too. But when a play like this happens, there will always be a difference of opinion.
In Game 3 there will be plenty of things to watch for. First of all, if Utley is allowed to play, how will the fans react and will the Mets pitchers throw at him? Will this injury to Tejada bring the Mets closer together OR will Wilmer Flores show why he was on the bench in favor of Tejada and cost the Mets?
We won’t have to wait long to find out as Game 3 is set for Monday night, and any way you want to look at it, Matt Harvey vs Brett Anderson just became a lot more interesting.