SAN FRANCISCO - Though their record indicates the Mets left AT&T Park Sunday with a 4-3 victory over the Giants, anyone who watched the wild events of the ninth inning knows otherwise.
Plate umpire Phil Cuzzi apparently was looking elsewhere because he missed two pivotal calls, including one that should have allowed the Giants to stick Francisco Rodriguez with the loss and not merely his fifth blown save before giving him a shot at redemption.
Henry Blanco, who was behind the plate for the ninth-inning mayhem, and manager Jerry Manuel went as far as to say that Cuzzi and the umpiring crew let things spin out of control, first during a heated exchange with K-Rod. "Their job is to remain somewhat calm and let us rant and rave and do our thing," he said. "But I thought [Cuzzi] kind of lost it there."
Still, the Mets caught a serious break, that's for sure. With K-Rod - who took over for Johan Santana (one run in eight innings) - unraveling and drawing the ire of a furious Cuzzi, the Giants tied it at 3 on Travis Ishikawa's two-run single. When Andres Torres followed with a double to right, Ishikawa was held at third, and the Mets brought the infield in.
Freddy Sanchez slapped a grounder directly at David Wright, but Ishikawa broke for home. Wright hurried and his throw was high to Blanco, who leaped and did not get the tag down until half of Ishikawa's body had crossed the plate. Blanco practically tagged him on the shoulder, but Cuzzi called him out, keeping the Mets alive for Ike Davis' RBI double in the 10th.
The Mets found nothing wrong with Cuzzi's blunder - wink, wink, nudge, nudge - except for Blanco, who said: "He was safe all the way. Good for us."
Blanco laughed afterward, knowing full well that the Mets got extremely lucky. Not only that, but he suggested that Cuzzi may have used that as a makeup call after squeezing K-Rod on a number of occasions.
Blanco thought the game was over. "I was getting ready to go to our dugout," he said, "but I guess one of those calls he missed, he give it to us."
Cuzzi missed a crucial call during Game 2 of last year's ALDS. Joe Mauer appeared to hit a double down the leftfield line at Yankee Stadium in the 11th inning - replays showed Melky Cabrera touched it in fair territory - but Cuzzi called it foul and the Twins went on to lose the game and the series.
As Blanco suggested, maybe Cuzzi had a guilty conscience because he flipped out at K-Rod during Ishikawa's key at-bat in the ninth.
Before the tying single, with the count 1-and-0, K-Rod threw an apparent strike. When it was called a ball, he glared at Cuzzi before spinning back around.
Cuzzi threw up his arms, even motioning as if he were throwing K-Rod out. K-Rod gestured back, and Manuel came out to defuse the situation.
"I threw a pitch, it was pretty clear it was a strike," K-Rod said. "If he feels that I showed him up, I wasn't trying to. I know he snapped on me, but I had no idea what he said."
Said Cuzzi: "I was just very exaggerated in saying the pitch was outside. It's as simple as that."
But Blanco, who said Cuzzi's strike zone was off all day, believed he was out of line. Way out. "I hope somebody sees that and punishes him," he said. "That's one thing that should never happen in a baseball game. It doesn't matter how mad you are - it should not happen, especially from them."
But the Mets, and specifically K-Rod, survived the meltdown, even with another missed call later by Cuzzi & Co.
After Ishikawa's grounder, the Giants had runners at second and third for Aubrey Huff, who hit a tapper in front of the plate. That, for some reason, was called foul, with Cuzzi getting help from third-base ump Mike Estabrook. Blanco said it didn't hit anything. The call gave Huff new life, but fortunately for the Mets, Huff grounded out to first.
"I'm thinking the worm has turned," Manuel said. "Things are turning around for us."