The Dodgers' Chase Utley has been suspended for Games 3 and 4 of the National League Division Series for what baseball now considers an illegal slide, one that broke the leg of Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada.
But the longtime Mets nemesis will appeal, meaning that he still could be in the lineup Monday night in the first-ever postseason game at Citi Field.
Utley's presence could create fireworks with Mets ace Matt Harvey on the mound. For all the rawness that still surrounds the takeout slide by Utley that ended Tejada's season, Harvey's mission hasn't changed. When he takes the ball in Game 3 Monday night, his intent is to fill the scoreboard with zeros for as long as he can.
"But as far as sticking up for your teammates, I think being out there and doing what's right is exactly what I'm going to do," Harvey said, striking an ominous tone the day before the pivotal game.
Indeed, under the code of the frontier justice that has been common practice on ballfields for decades, retaliation also falls within the scope of Harvey's job. The Mets could be further emboldened to seek payback now that they have been sanctioned by Major League Baseball.
In a strongly worded statement Sunday night, chief baseball officer Joe Torre said that although Utley did not appear to intentionally injure Tejada, the play still warranted discipline. Torre called the illegal slide a "rolling block that occurs away from the base."
Had umpires made a similar ruling on Saturday night, Howie Kendrick's one-hopper up the middle would have been ruled an inning-ending double play.
Instead, Kendrick knocked in the tying run on a forceout, aided partly by Utley's hard slide. Playing with an extra out, the Dodgers scored three more runs to win, 5-2, and even the series at a game apiece.
Utley's agent, Joel Wolfe, issued a statement to various media outlets that called the suspension "outrageous and completely unacceptable." He went on to note that similar plays "routinely" take place at second base but do not result in suspensions.
NLDS Game 3 would have had plenty of drama on its own, with the winner moving to the brink of winning the best-of-five-series. But it has taken on added meaning in the wake of the slide. Or, as the Mets have called it, the tackle. "I was pretty shaken up by it," manager Terry Collins said Sunday.
Tejada's season came to an abrupt end when he was carted off the field after his encounter with Utley. With one down, runners at the corners and the tying run at third, Utley barreled into second base to break up a potential double play.
Utley veered wide of the bag and upended Tejada when the shortstop had his back to the runner as he prepared to make the relay throw to first base. Tejada was forced into an awkward position partly because he had to reach back for an errant feed by second baseman Daniel Murphy.
"There was a lot of upset feelings," said Harvey, who spoke hours before Utley's suspension was announced. "And any time you lose a player like that, a guy who earned his spot and has been out there game after game, we're all feeling for him, and we're definitely moving forward with him in our minds."
Some of the Mets' simmering anger stems from their long history with Utley while he was with the Phillies. In September 2010, Utley angered David Wright with another hard takeout slide of Tejada. And as recently as this April, it was Utley who caught a Harvey pitch between the 2 and 6 on his jersey.
The plunking came after two Mets had been hit earlier in the game.
"History has kind of shown that he's kind of been in situations like that before," said Harvey, who has watched Utley go 6-for-18 with one home run against him. "I know personally after watching in 2010 and hearing about it with Ruben as well, there's some situations that need to be taken care of."
Even if umpires issue warnings before the game begins, Harvey said he intends to stick with his game plan, even if that means pitching inside. As for seeking retaliation, Collins didn't seem to shut the door.
"Well, I certainly can't answer that, as you know," said Collins, who called Utley's slide late. "But all's I know is for years and years and years as long as this game is played, and we know there are a lot of changes, players always took care of stuff themselves."