A takeout slide by the Dodgers' Chase Utley that fractured the right fibula of Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada played a key role in a four-run seventh inning that allowed Los Angeles to rally for a 5-2 win in NLDS Game 2. The series is now tied at one-game apiece heading into Game 3 in New York on Monday.
With Kiké (pronounced KEE-KAY) Hernandez on third, Utley on first and one out in the seventh inning of a 2-1 game, the Dodgers' Howie Kendrick hit a line drive up the middle. The Mets' Daniel Murphy gloved it and flipped to Tejada at second for a force out. Replays showed Utley started his slide right at the base, upending Tejada—who caught the ball with his back to the oncoming runner—and thus allowing Kendrick to reach and Hernandez to score and tie the game.
While Tejada was being tended to by his team's trainers, Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly challenged the out call at second base, contending that Tejada never touched the base.The umpires overturned the call on review, sending Utley—who had run off the field and back to the dugout after the initial call without ever touching the bag—to second. Adrian Gonzalez and Justin Turner followed with run-scoring hits that gave the Dodgers a 5-2 lead.
The so-called "neighborhood play" allows for umpires to call a runner out even if an infielder does not actually touch the base if he has the ball and is trying to avoid an oncoming runner, but it was not invoked in that situation. Neighborhood plays are not reviewable under MLB's replay system.
According to MLB Rule 7.09(e): "If, in the judgment of the umpire, a baserunner 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 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."
Afterward, Mets manager Terry Collins said, "The umpires handled it great. They didn't think it was a good throw [by Murphy] so the neighborhood play was out. They handled it right."
Mets captain David Wright, however, said, "If that's not a neighborhood play I'm not sure what is."
"Only Chase knows what his intent was," Wright said. "I have a problem with the play on a number of different levels. One being the slide itself. In my opinion he wasn’t anywhere close to the bag. That being said he never touched the bag. And I think the neighborhood play is there to protect players trying to turn the double play from getting hurt. I have a lot of questions I’m not sure if they’ve been answered or not."
Utley acknowledged having seen a replay but defended his actions. "It was one of those awkward plays," he said. "Obviously I feel terrible that he was injured. I had no intent to hurt him whatsoever but I did intend to break up the double play. Anytime you have a chance to break up a double play you should do your best to do that."
It's not the first time Utley has taken out Tejada with a questionable slide on an attempted double play. He did the same thing in 2010 while still playing with the Phillies.
Until 2014, runners were allowed to knock over catchers in an attempt to jar the ball loose, but MLB changed the rule, in part because of a 2011 play in which Scott Cousins, then of the Marlins, barreled into Giants star catcher Buster Posey, resulting in a broken leg and torn ligaments for Posey.