Sunday, October 11, 2015

A Familiar Refrain

The Mets had a golden opportunity to steal a second game of the NLDS in Los Angeles last night, but as we're all well aware now, a series of horrible events conspired to prevent that from happening. In spite of Noah Syndergaard pitching well into the 7th inning, the Dodgers were the recipient of some advantageous umpiring and clutch hitting, grabbed the lead and rolled home for a 5-2 win to even up the NLDS at 1 game each.

Things actually started out wonderfully for the Mets. Noah Syndergaard hit the mound about as amped up as deGrom was on Friday night, touching 101mph on the radar and blowing the Dodgers out of the box. The Mets jumped on Zack Greinke for a pair of 2nd inning Home Runs, the first from Yoenis Cespedes, because you knew that was coming, and the second from Michael Conforto, who showed he was ready for Prime Time right away. Mets lead 2-0, and all is right with the world.

Unfortunately, though they had some opportunities, the Mets never built on this lead. Greinke, who's equally as tough as Kershaw, bounced back from this and stopped the Mets cold the remainder of his 7 innings of work. On the other side, the Dodgers reached Syndergaard for a run in the 4th inning, when Justin Turner, who officially looks like a birthday party decoration, doubled to lead off the inning, and Andre Ethier hit one of his own. But, Syndergaard rebounded, got out of a jam and worked through the 5th and 6th innings without much trouble.

Then, of course, the 7th, which is the cause of all the trouble.

Syndergaard started the inning and struck out Yasmani Grandal, and looked just fine in doing so. But then he was too fine to Enrique Hernandez and walked him. The carcass of Chase Utley followed and although he barely got his bat on the ball, he got just enough to flick it over the head of Daniel Murphy for a single. At over 110 pitches, this was it for Syndergaard, who was removed from the game in favor of Bartolo Colon. This move was questioned, but after 6+ innings of Syndergaard's heat, Colon's craftiness was probably the right idea. I'm all in favor of giving Colon work here so long as he can get guys out. And he did what he needed to do against Howie Kendrick, who hit a screamer up the middle. A DP would have probably been tough even on a clean play since Kendrick runs well, and Daniel Murphy made what could basically be described as a Daniel Murphy toss to 2nd base, leading Tejada to the far side of the bag and forcing him to spin around in order to wind and try to throw to 1st. But, of course, that throw never came off, because just to make sure the Mets didn't turn the DP, Utley basically decided he was Clay Matthews, III and went for the takeout instead of the base. Tejada was completely upended and Utley was assumedly out. Fielder's Choice, run scores, tie game.

Then, of course, everything went haywire. Utley not only slid late and not particularly close to 2nd base, he actually missed 2nd base completely in his attempt to take out Tejada. And, of course, in the process, he not only upended Tejada, but broke the Shortstop's leg in the process. I mean, we already knew what a jackass Utley was before this play, so we didn't need to be reminded. And the ensuing replay was totally botched because whether Tejada touched the bag or not is immaterial. How interference wasn't called on Utley on this play is totally beyond me. We have a case history of plays like this where it took far less to draw an interference call, which would have resulted in an automatic and inning-ending DP. But it wasn't called. I mean, I don't know, I dumb as a post, but it seems to me that when a runner is so aggressive in trying to take out a fielder with a slide he not only misses the base but injures the fielder, wouldn't that kind of be a clue?

So, yeah. Just to turn the knife, the Dodgers end up challenging the call based on some weird technicality involving the neighborhood play, which should have been in play if they weren't going to call interference, and after all that crotch-grabbing and posturing, Utley was deemed safe. Safe! I'm not sure what sort of message the umpires were trying to sell at that point—perhaps martial law—but that basically turned the entire game upside down. The Mets got rooked on the call and you could basically tell Adrian Gonzalez was going to get the big hit before he even stepped to the plate. Whether Colon or Addison Reed were in to face him wouldn't have mattered. Just to make sure, Turner followed by driving in Gonzalez, the Dodgers went ahead 5-2, and that was pretty much that.

It's very easy to be frustrated over a game like this and a call (or in this case non-call) that totally changes the game and screws the Mets over. But let's not lose perspective here. The Mets needed to do one thing, and that was not come back to New York down 0-2. They did that. They won a game and they're coming back home with the series tied 1-1, and on Monday night, they'll have Matt Harvey on the mound and a stadium full of fans that are going to be absolutely roaring. The Dodgers, on the other hand, counter with Brett Anderson, who's not Greinke and not Kershaw. Sure, they had a chance to get greedy and win both games out there but the chances of that happening were, logically, unlikely. That being said, it's now on Harvey to come out on Monday night and pitch like he means it.

More importantly, though, the team needs to forget about this and move on. I know a lot of guys were pretty upset about it, and rightfully so. Whether Utley meant to hurt Tejada or not, he still did and that's going to piss a lot of guys off, and even guys that weren't playing in the game. Again, Utley's an abrasive prick and he's built a career around that, and it's not as though Mets fans liked him anyway. With crisis there is always opportunity and yes, the Mets lost their best defensive infielder, but they still have Wilmer Flores there, who has the potential to make up in offense what he loses in defense. But the worst thing the Mets can do right now is dwell on it and come out on Monday feeling tight and frustrated. This is something that this team has done really well all season long. They've consistently bounced back from tough losses and come back and played strong. This is a testament to Terry Collins, of course, but also to the way the team plays; together and without fear. Resiliency has been a key trait for this team.

It has to be, otherwise we're in a lot of trouble.

No comments: