Takeaways from the Mets 5-2 loss to the Dodgers on Saturday…
Another tight game, ending with much controversy.
It was another game between these two clubs where runs were hard to come by. Just how everyone expected it to be.
But this game ended with fireworks, controversy, and with a critical loss for the Mets.
At least until the seventh inning, anyway. And unfortunately, things just imploded on the Mets, partially because of their own doing, but mostly because the umpires just totally messed up a critical play at second base which completely changed the complexion of this game.
Neither Noah Syndergaard or Zack Greinke were close to perfect on Saturday night, but both pitched very well and certainly well enough to win if not for a break here or a break there.
The Mets were able to power up a couple of mistakes from Greinke up in the zone with two solo home runs in the second inning – one from Yoenis Cespedes and the other from Michael Conforto in the third inning. The pitch to Conforto wasn’t terrible – he simply got the bat head out on a pitch on the inner half and was able to keep it just fair to knock it off the foul pole.
But it worked for the Mets and gave the Mets necessary breathing room while stoning the crowd at Dodger Stadium in the process.
As for Syndergaard, he was electrifying early, featuring fastballs in excess of 100 mph in the first inning as he blew the ball by one Dodger hitter or another.
But he struggled to command his breaking stuff and it forced him into some predictable counts.
He dodged trouble in the third inning when the Dodgers had first and second and one out when he fanned Corey Seager and Adrian Gonzalez. But he was unable to dodge all of the trouble in the fourth inning after former Met Justin Turner led off the inning with a double, and Andre Ether followed with a double of his own.
That brought the Dodgers to within one run, and that’s when the opportunities mostly ended for both clubs as Greinke and Syndergaard found a groove and started getting some quick and uneventful outs to round out their nights as they both gave their clubs very strong efforts.
In the seventh inning with two on and one out and the Mets in need of a groundball, Terry Collins turned to Bartolo Colon to get the two biggest outs of the game. Indeed, he got the groundball he needed behind the second base bag, but Chase Utley slid late into Ruben Tejada to take him out and allow the tying run to score.
That collision knocked Tejada out of the game with a broken leg. His season is now over.
On came Addison Reed into what was a chaotic moment for the Mets, and he quickly retired Seager for the second out, but Adrian Gonzalez finally broke through with a big two-run double, and Justin Turner drove him in with a double of his own
That collision in the seventh inning.
Here’s what happened.
Kendrick grounded a ball behind the second base bag in which Murphy fielded and flipped to Tejada.
Utley slid directly into Tejada, who never touched second base, and injured his right leg in the process.
But Tejada never touched second base, either.
The thing is, the neighborhood play at second base is not a challengeable play, yet Don Mattingly either got away with the challenge or coaxed the umpiring crew to review the play anyway.
But it got even more bizarre from there.
Utley was ultimately reviewed safe at second after the umpires reviewed the play, completely changing the complexion of the inning.
And, he never touched the base, as he slid right into Tejada without touching the bag and then he just jogged off the field.
Yes, the Dodgers had just tied the score at 2-2, but instead of having a runner at first and two outs, the situation was first and second and one out, and the Dodgers just captured all of the momentum of the innings and exploded on Reed, who was totally ineffective in relief of Colon.
So essentially, Utley was ruled safe after never touching second, on a call that should not have been reviewed.
Now, Major League Baseball stated Murphy’s throw took Tejada off the base, and they can actually overturn an incorrect call on the field, which is why the Mets never appealed the call that Utley was ruled safe at second.
And, the league says that was not ruled a neighborhood play, instead insisting that Murphy’s throw pulled Murphy off the base.
The rule also states that if both the fielder and the runner miss the base, the runner is awarded the base.
So basically, the umpires got this right at the severe expense of the Mets. They lost control of the game and a key player in the process.
Was it a clean slide? Some say yes, some say no. Either way, this was the pivotal moment for both clubs, and the Mets lost that moment in a big way.
If anything, the umpires should have called interference on Utley and ruled it a 4-6-3 double play. That would have been truly the proper call.
In the end, it was just an ugly, weird, and costly moment for the Mets in many ways.
The pitching choices in the seventh inning.
It was a curious call to insert Bartolo Colon in the seventh inning with runners at the corners and one out, although Howie Kendrick has struggled historically against Colon in his career. Of course, Colon actually got the groundball he needed but it ultimately turned into a real circus play at second base, a run scored and no outs.
But then Collins turned to Addison Reed, and not Jon Niese, to face Adrian Gonzalez.
Gonzalez is hitless in 11 career at-bats against Niese.
The decision burned Collins as Gonzalez turned on a fastball from Reed, and sent into the right field corner to drive in two runs.
Needless to say, if Niese isn’t going to be used in a late-inning situation to get Gonzalez and/or Utley out, it’s not clear why he’s in the bullpen to begin with.
A dicey #ThorsDay.
This was hardly Noah Syndergaard’s best day from a stuff perspective, and that’s with a fastball consistently 98-101 mph from start to finish.
That is because he just couldn’t find his change-up or his curveball. That’s not to say he didn’t use those pitches – he did. He just lacked any kind of rhythm with those pitches which forced him into a lot of fastball counts, giving the Dodgers numerous opportunities to topple him over.
But Syndergaard became very stubborn with runners on-base. He only allowed one of the seven baserunners he allowed to reach to come across thanks to some clutch pitching in the third inning when he fanned Seager and Gonzalez, Yasmani Grandal for a big second out in the fourth inning, and a big inning ending double play off the bat of Carl Crawford int he sixth inning.
It’s fair to wonder if he was too amped up in the first inning and spent too much of his stamina in the process, which affected his ability to gather himself later in the game and find the arm slot for his off-speed.
None the less, he was poised, focused, and when he finally found his off-speed in the fifth inning, the Dodgers got lost in a guessing game of scintillating fastballs, curveballs and change-ups, and they just couldn’t touch him until he just ran out of gas in the seventh inning.
And unfortunately, Syndergaard had nothing to show for what really was a gutsy effort.
Picking up the pieces.
All-in-all, the Mets are where they need to be with the series tied at one. Yes, a 2-0 lead would have been great going home, and to lose a game with a seventh inning lead hurts for sure. And they now have to figure out how to account for the loss of Tejada, who really had a nice year and had earned himself the starting job in this playoff series against the Dodgers.
But they have Matt Harvey going on Monday night, Citi Field will be electric, and they’ll be tasked with avoiding having to come back to Los Angeles in a winner-take-all game five.
The Mets have a long flight home tonight, but need to hit the reset button after a stunning blow in game two. They’re still in a good position – they just need to take care of business on their turf this week.
Other notes from Saturday:
Michael Conforto is the second Met in team history to hit a home run in his first postseason at-bat. Edgardo Alfonzo hit a solo home run off Arizona’s Randy Johnson in the 1999 NLDS (Game 1).
The last MLB rookie to hit a home run in his first postseason was St. Louis’ Thomas Pham who did it yesterday in Game 1 of their NL Division Series vs. Chicago.