LOS ANGELES - Chaos converged at second base Saturday night, a moment that altered the course of the Mets' 5-2 loss to the Dodgers and shrouded Game 2 of the National League Division Series in controversy and anger.
A hard takeout slide by longtime Mets nemesis Chase Utley shattered the right leg of shortstop Ruben Tejada -- and the umpires' rules interpretation allowed the review that awarded Utley second base after he initially was ruled out.
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The fallout was severe. With the extra out, the Dodgers mounted a four-run rally in the seventh inning, one that evened the best-of-five series at one game apiece.StoryCurrent, former players react to Utley's slide
Mets ace Matt Harvey takes the mound in Game 3 at Citi Field on Monday night. He will do so with the Mets still seething about a questionable takeout slide, one that added a layer of intrigue to a series that has been primarily about brilliant pitching.
"Only Chase knows going in there what his intent was," David Wright said. "But I have a problem with the play on a number of different levels."
Apparently, as did general manager Sandy Alderson and assistant general manager John Ricco. Both declined comment after a heated exchange with MLB's chief of baseball, Joe Torre.
Now the Mets will have to pick up the pieces without their starting shortstop. Wilmer Flores will take over, though it's unclear who will replace Tejada on the roster.
The best retribution, veteran Michael Cuddyer said, is for the Mets to win the series. Physical payback, he said, should come at "another time, another place, another series, not here." Nevertheless, he questioned Utley's slide.
"That's not a slide, that's a tackle," Cuddyer said. "That's for you to decide if tackling is legal in baseball . . . Before he hits the ground, he hits Ruben. I've done my fair share of taking out double plays. I've never done anything like that."
The play highlighted a critical sequence. Mets starter Noah Syndergaard entered the seventh with a 2-1 lead, and with runners at the corners and one out, manager Terry Collins bypassed his two most trusted middle relievers, Addison Reed and Tyler Clippard. Instead, he put the game in the hands of Bartolo Colon, who had spent the season as a starter.
Collins, banking on a grounder, got exactly that from Howie Kendrick. Second baseman Daniel Murphy fielded the ball behind second base, and as he fought his momentum, his toss forced Tejada to reach behind him to catch the throw. That left Tejada's back exposed to Utley, who appeared to enter his slide late.
Utley hammered Tejada, with his face hitting the shortstop's knee. Kiké Hernandez scored the tying run and Tejada eventually was carted off the field and diagnosed with a fractured fibula that ended his season. He left the clubhouse on crutches.
"It was one of those awkward plays, first and third, tying run is on third base, going hard to try to break up the double play," Utley said. "What can I say? I feel terrible that he's injured. I had no intent to hurt him whatsoever, but I did have the intent to break up the double play."
Utley accomplished both. He initially was ruled out, but because umpires ruled the play a simple forceout -- as opposed to the "neighborhood play" while turning a double play -- the incident became reviewable.
The Dodgers challenged the out call and the review showed that Tejada never touched second base. Neither did Utley, but he was awarded second. (Torre later explained that had the Mets tagged Utley initially -- after he was ruled out -- he wouldn't have been awarded second on the review.)
"I have a lot of questions," Wright said. "I'm not sure that they've been answered."
The ruling haunted the Mets. Corey Seager flied out, potentially the final out of the inning had Utley been ruled out. Instead, the Dodgers made the most of another chance. Adrian Gonzalez lined a two-run double off Reed and Justin Turner followed with a run-scoring double of his own.
The incident marred what began as an impressive night by Syndergaard, who topped out at 101 mph while being charged with three runs in 61/3 innings.
The Mets took a 2-0 lead against Dodgers righty Zack Greinke on solo homers by Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto in the second inning.
Cespedes hit an opposite-field shot on a fastball to break what had been an unexpected drought. The Cuban slugger hammered 17 homers in his first 41 games after his deadline trade from the Tigers to the Mets, but he had gone homerless in his last 17, including Game 1 the night before.
Three batters later, the Mets struck again as Conforto lined a two-out shot that rocked the rightfield foul pole. The drive was clocked at 114 mph.
The homer made Conforto only the second Met to homer in his first postseason at-bat, joining Edgardo Alfonzo off the Diamondbacks' Randy Johnson in Game 1 of the 1999 NLDS. But in a more immediate sense, the line-drive homer gave the Mets even more reason to consider playing the rookie against lefthanded pitching instead of Cuddyer.
The home runs staked Syndergaard to a 2-0 lead on a night in which he used sheer physical force to smother the Dodgers.
All season, he has sprinkled in triple-digit heaters, but in Game 2, 13 of Syndergaard's 36 pitches reached triple-digits. Four of those came on 101-mph fastballs in the first inning. By the third, catcher Travis d'Arnaud needed a new mitt, his old one perhaps done in by Syndergard's power.
The Dodgers scored a run in the fourth on consecutive doubles by Turner and Andre Ethier, whose run-scoring hit one-hopped the rightfield wall.
Of course, in the seventh, there would be more fireworks.
"Broke my shortstop's leg, that's all I know," said Collins, who refused to get into more detail about the controversial play.
But even Torre acknowledged that Utley's slide was late, a thought echoed by Mets infielder Kelly Johnson.
"At what point is that illegal?" he said. "At what point do we say, 'Hey, man, we missed something here?' We've got rules at home plate to protect our guys. What's the difference?"
The Mets must regain their focus, though Wright said they can't forget the circumstances behind Tejada's fate.
"You've got one of your teammates who has a broken leg," he said. "So I think that you try to go out there, you try to rally around that, you go out there and try to get a win or two for Ruben."
Said Wright: "It's a guy that sticks his neck out there to try to turn a big double play, knowing that he's going to get hit. That's the definition of a great teammate, a guy who makes that play knowing that he's going to get hit."
Notes & quotes: If needed, Long Island's Steven Matz might start NLDS Game 4 after all. Because Jacob deGrom needed a season-high 121 pitches to throw seven shutout innings in Game 1, Collins reiterated that it would be "unrealistic" to bring him back to start Game 4, even if the Mets are facing elimination . . . Clippard likely will remain in the setup role despite his recent shakiness. He allowed the Dodgers' only run in Game 1 . . . Former Met Rusty Staub will attend Game 3 on Monday at Citi Field. He recently suffered a heart attack.