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Successful appeal play at first short-circuits Mets' comeback

Collin McHugh #36 of the New York Mets

Collin McHugh #36 of the New York Mets pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Mo. (Sept. 3, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

ST. LOUIS -- Even after frame-by-frame scrutiny of the replay, there was a pretty wide disagreement, except on one point: Everybody was sure there was something missing.

The first-base umpire insisted Andres Torres missed first base. The Mets insisted that the umpire missed the call.

The facts were pretty misty, with the bottom line being that the Mets were upset about missing out on a chance to complete another comeback. What they had Monday, after a rare successful appeal erased Torres' leadoff double in the ninth inning, was an unappealing 5-4 loss to the Cardinals.

"I think our frustration mounted because it feels like in that situation, you just can't be wrong," said Daniel Murphy, who expressed his anger after he made the final out. "I know it's a result sort of thing. Like if you try to steal third base with nobody out, it's a result play. If you're out, it's a bad play; if you're safe, it's a good one. We felt that you can't make that call if you're wrong."

So was it an incorrect call by first-base umpire Dave Rackley?

"We had access to video. I'm sure you guys did, too," Murphy told reporters, "so we know the answer to that."

But Rackley had a completely different interpretation after watching the replay, saying that both live and on video, he clearly saw Torres fail to touch first on his way to second base.

"His foot went over the base, his toe hit the dirt and his heel never came down and it just kicked dirt up and he never touched the corner," Rackley said. "I wouldn't make that up."

What made this so painful for the Mets was that they nearly made up a big deficit. The Cardinals -- holding the second of two wild-card positions and desperate for a win after losing five of six -- led 4-0 after four because Collin McHugh was not nearly as good in his second career start as he had been in his first (seven innings, no runs, nine strikeouts on Aug. 23).

The Mets, having won seven of eight, did make it interesting with two-run homers by Kelly Shoppach and Murphy in the seventh and eighth. They got the Cardinals so concerned that manager Mike Matheny went to closer Jason Motte with one out in the eighth after a walk to Ike Davis and a pinch single by Jason Bay.

The Mets seemed to be in prime position to tie it when Torres led off the ninth with his double. They were stunned when Motte threw to first before his next pitch and Rackley emphatically gave the "out" sign.

"I have never seen a call like that, not in the big leagues," Mets manager Terry Collins said.

When he was asked how it looked on the replay, he added: "I get back to the bench, I've got 10 guys telling me he touched the bag. I don't need to see it.''

Torres, who did not argue after he was called out, said "I think he missed the call" and added that his left heel made contact with the base. "I was watching the outfielder, too, where he was. I was just going hard. But to be honest with you, I thought I touched the base. I know I touched it. I just kept running."

That was not the way it looked to former Met Carlos Beltran, out with a knee injury, who was taking swings in the batting cage and watching the game on television.

"He never looked at the bag," he said. "I saw sand coming off around the bag and I just went and told Mike, 'Let's try to throw to first. It looked like he didn't touch the base.' We had nothing to lose."

So his team didn't lose a game it could not afford to drop. And the Mets probably lost some sleep over a missed chance.

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