by Paul West
The seventh inning of Saturday night’s game left a terrible taste in the mouths of Mets fans, players and staff. On the verge of returning to Citi Field in a position to sweep their way into the NLCS, one awful play changed the course of the game.
Trying to break up an inning-ending double play, Chase Utley delivered an unconscionable chop-block that broke Ruben Tejada‘s leg and cost him the rest of his postseason; he began his slide-tackle mere inches from second base, while Tejada’s back was clearly turned and with no obvious attempt to touch the bag. He missed the bag by nearly a foot and was called out, after which he promptly got up and trotted directly to the dugout. He made no attempt to touch second base after the play, and Tejada, writhing in pain from a fractured shin, held the ball in his bare hand and did not attempt to tag Utley. Somehow, this play was deemed reviewable; somehow, Utley was ruled safe; somehow, it was ruled that manager Terry Collins could not challenge the matter of whether Utley had touched the bag in the first place. In a classic case of insult upon injury, the Mets felt utterly robbed by Major League Baseball and its officials. The Mets fumed after the game, with David Wright as angry as practically anyone’s seen him in a Mets uniform and Kelly Johnson delivering a pointed series of ‘questions’ in the locker room. Mets fans went to bed angry and dismayed in the wee hours of the morning, and the Dodgers celebrated being given new life.
One thing bears remembering in all this: in splitting the games at Dodger Stadium, the Mets accomplished their primary goal of retaking home-field advantage.
It’s absolutely necessary for the Mets to not just embrace, but vent, their frustrations. This will help them focus on the matter of paramount importance: finishing off the Dodgers and advancing to the next round. Matt Harvey is known for pitching well when he’s fired up, and he should provide the spark the Mets need–but there’s a fine line between legitimate and counterproductive anger. The Mets need to remember that taking one of two on the road against Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke was the original mission. They’ve turned this series into a best-of-three, with home-field advantage and Matt Harvey starting Game One. All things considered, they’re still in a good position. They need to just keep their focus and take advantage of it.