WATCH: Ninth-inning slide rule call plays a big part in Mets' win over Nats

Thursday night in New York, the NL East rival Mets and Nationals opened a crucial four-game series at Citi Field. Washington went into the series with a four-game lead in the division, so, if nothing else, this is a big opportunity for the Mets to gain ground.

The Mets won the first game of the series Thursday night (NYM 9, WAS 7) in a wild back-and-forth game. The two teams combined for four lead changes and eight home runs. It was a fun game, no doubt. The Mets are now only three games back in the NL East. They were six back as recently as last Friday.

Thursday's game was not without controversy. In the ninth inning, after Jayson Werth drew a leadoff walk, ex-Met Daniel Murphy grounded into a 6-4 fielder's choice. However, second base Jim Joyce ruled Werth made an illegal take-out slide at second base, resulting in an automatic 6-4-3 double play.

To the video:

The Nationals challenged the play but to no luck. The rules stipulate the runner can not deviate from "his pathway for the purpose of initiating contact with a fielder," which Werth did. He veered to his left to slide into second baseman Neil Walker, hence the call by Joyce.

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Jayson Werth was called for an illegal take-out slide on this play. USATSI

Had the call stood, Bryce Harper would have batted with Murphy at first and one out in the ninth. Harper, the reigning NL MVP, homered earlier in the game and would have represented the tying run. Instead, Harper batted with two outs and the bases empty. Pretty huge swing on the double play, huh?

Needless to say, the Nationals were not happy with the automatic double play, so much so that GM Mike Rizzo reportedly got into a shouting match with Joyce in the tunnel after the game.

Emotions are running high, I'd say. Joyce's call was not wrong. Werth clearly deviated from his path to initial contact with the runner. Joyce got it right on the field and the review crew in New York confirmed the call.

This isn't the first time we've seen a team get upset when they're called for an automatic double play, but these are the rules now. MLB and the MLBPA are trying to keep players safe, so going out of your way for a take-out slide is no longer allowed. Werth and the Nationals learned that hard way Thursday.

CBS Sports Writer

Mike Axisa joined CBS Sports in 2013. He has been a member of the BBWAA since 2015 and has previously written about both fantasy baseball and real life baseball for MLBTradeRumors.com, FanGraphs.com, RotoAuthority.com,... Full Bio

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