The mob craved revenge. With every break in the action, with every fiber of their being, the largest crowd ever gathered for a Mets game at Citi Field clamored for its pound of flesh.
"We want Utley!" they roared Monday night, their hatred for longtime foil Chase Utley rising like a mushroom cloud over Queens. Only ancient Romans could have mustered such blood lust.
The Mets could have given in to temptation. They could have let Game 3 of their National League Division Series turn into Fight Night at Citi Field. The fans would have loved that, too, their thirst for eye-for-an-eye frontier justice quenched with a plunking.
But because they kept their eyes trained on the real prize, the Mets began their payback with a 13-7 thrashing of the Dodgers instead.
Before the Mets went up 2-1 in the best-of-five series, a surge of electricity pulsed through the ballpark when Ruben Tejada limped to the first-base line with the aid of a cane during introductions. It had been two days since Utley's takeout slide shattered his right leg. The Mets used their fallen teammate as a rallying point.
"I think everybody feels badly for Ruben, but what's done is done," David Wright said before the game. "The only thing we can do now in support of Ruben is going out there and getting back the way that we know how to get back, and that's winning two games here."
The Mets are halfway to that goal, thanks to an onslaught that chased starter Brett Anderson after three innings and covered for a shaky Matt Harvey.
Yoenis Cespedes crushed a three-run homer that landed in the upper deck in leftfield, 431 feet away. Travis d'Arnaud knocked in three runs, including a two-run shot. Curtis Granderson equaled a franchise postseason record with five RBIs with a pair of wall-crashing doubles.
The Mets' 13 runs set a franchise postseason record.
In Tuesday night's Game 4, the Dodgers will send ace Clayton Kershaw to the mound against Steven Matz, the Ward Melville product who was just a 15-year-old fan when the Mets last hosted a postseason game in 2006.
Making his first playoff start, Harvey allowed three runs (two earned), seven hits and two walks in five innings but got the victory despite falling into a 3-0 hole in the second. The Mets responded by scoring 10 unanswered runs.
During introductions before the first pitch, the fans erupted when Utley was shown on the video board. For good measure, the public address announcer paused for a few extra beats, opening the door for more venom to flow from the stands.
By the time Harvey was pinch hit for in the fifth, departing after 97 pitches, the crowd of 44,276 had shifted its focus from victory to revenge.
"We want Utley!" they chanted as Cespedes rounded the bases, and again during a Dodgers challenge in the seventh, and once more after Granderson's second double.
The fans never got him. Even when the pitcher's spot came up in the ninth, with the Dodgers having cut into the lead on Howie Kendrick's three-run homer, manager Don Mattingly went with Justin Ruggiano.
Utley declined to speak to reporters in the clubhouse. When he was approached by two reporters, he ignored them, and a team spokesman said, "He's not going to talk."
For the Mets, it was nothing more than a sideshow. On-field revenge was a matter for another day.
"Somehow it's going to happen," Wilmer Flores said. "But we just want to win. I don't think it's the time."
Instead, the time had come for something else. After nine long years of angst, of free-agent signings gone bad, of crippling losses absorbed with no end in sight, the Mets stand one win away from playing in the NLCS.
And this, they said, was the ultimate revenge. "To win the series," d'Arnaud said. "And tonight was a big part of it."