Things got a little chaotic -- and controversial -- in the seventh inning of Game 2 of the NLDS on Saturday night, as the Los Angeles Dodgers evened the series with a 5-2 victory over the New York Mets.
The Dodgers, down 2-1 with runners on the corners and one out at the time, were able to tie the Mets 2-2 on Howie Kendrick's fielder's choice. It was a ground ball back up the middle, and second baseman Daniel Murphy fed shortstop Ruben Tejada the ball for a potential double play.
The double play was never turned. It wasn't even attempted. Chase Utley upended Tejada at second base with a brutal take-out slide. Kendrick was safe at first and the tying run scored from third. Here's the slide:
Boy, that is brutal. Utley has always played extremely aggressively and this is not the first time he's gone into second base hard to break up a double play. Heck, it's not even the first time he's gone in hard at second with Tejada at the bag. It happened in 2010 as well.
Utley is a second baseman, remember. He's been on the wrong end of take-out slides plenty of times in his career. Utley's taken it and dished it out a lot in his career.
As you can see in the video, but Utley slid late into Tejada. He was almost passed the bag when he slid. Utley did not slide directly into second base, but he was able to reach the bag, which is the widely accepted standard for take-out slides. If the runner can reach the base, it's okay.
Here's what the rulebook says about take-out slides:
(e) If, in the judgment of the umpire, a base runner willfully and deliberately interferes with a batted ball or a fielder in the act of fielding a batted ball with the obvious intent to break up a double play, the ball is dead. The umpire shall call the runner out for interference and also call out the batter-runner because of the action of his teammate. In no event may bases be run or runs scored because of such action by a runner.
It sure looked as though Utley "willfully and deliberately" interfered with Tejada, but this is a judgement call, and judgment calls are not reviewable. Only black and white plays with hard evidence -- safe or out, fair or foul, etc. -- are reviewable. In the judgment of the umpire, Utley's slide was okay.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly challenged the out call at second, and after a review, Utley was called safe. Apparently Tejada's foot never touched the base. Utley didn't touch second base either, but MLB rules indicate the runner is safe in a situation where both the fielder and runner fail to touch the base.
According to MLB rules, on a replay where BOTH the fielder misses the bag/tag AND the runner misses the bag, the runner is ruled safe.— Dave Hogg (@Stareagle) October 11, 2015
That's why Utley was called safe even though he didn't touch second. Also, because the umpire originally called Utley out, he is not considered to have abandoned the play when he walked to the dugout.
Mets manager Terry Collins told reporters after the game that the play was deemed a force play, not a neighborhood play because the throw from Murphy to Tejada was not on the bag. Had it been a good throw right to Tejada, it would have been a neighborhood play, and therefore not reviewable. A force play is reviewable.
The inning continued with Utley at second and Kendrick at first with one out. The Dodgers eventually took the lead later in the inning on Adrian Gonzalez's two-run double. Justin Turner doubled in another run after that. Utley scored the go-ahead run. Los Angeles held on for a 5-2 win to even the series at one game apiece (box score).
Tejada, meanwhile, had to be carted off the field after the take-out slide. His right leg was stabilized. The Mets later announced he suffered a fractured right fibula on the play. Tejada is done for the series and Wilmer Flores will presumably take over at shortstop.
The Mets and Dodgers will play Game 3 of the NLDS in New York on Monday.