It wasn’t a game that started out looking like a thriller.
“Colón versus Kershaw!” people said. “That’s not going to end well!”
But for a while, it went better than we had any right to expect.
Bartolo, for his part, pitched far better than expected — seeing as he’s a 43-year-old with the body of Ralph Kramden — but really, he pitched well, even for a normal-bodied player. The offense was facing Clayton Kershaw: you can’t fault them for doing little.
But Colón couldn’t hold the Dodgers back forever. In the top of the third, with one out, Chase Utley singled. Utley was on first. With one out. And the entire stadium, we all knew, although no one said anything, was thinking the same thing.
Let’s see a grounder. Right to Walker at second. Flip to Cabrera. And let’s see Chase Utley try to break up another double play.
But then Kyle Seager singled Utley over to third.
As luck would have it, Turner, the next batter, grounded one to Flores, so we would have our double play after all. Or so we thought. Flores dove, for reasons those watching didn’t fully understand, and threw over to second. Walker relayed to first, but it was too late to catch Turner, and Utley came home.
And then Terry Collins came out of the dugout, and the entire ballpark went silent as the realization sunk in.
We were trying to take a Dodgers’ run off the board using the Chase Utley Rule.
We, the fans, were floored; that much was obvious. “There’s a mountain of symbolism here,” I said — really, I said it out loud — to no one in particular. With the play under review, replays flashed, one after another, on the scoreboard. It looked like a textbook late slide: Seager slides past second, into Walker’s leg, which could have injured him if he’d been unable to get out of the way.
And then the umpires got the decision from their headsets. And then crew chief made an “out” call. And then, because we’re Mets fans and our luck is awarded sparsely, we realized they were calling out the runner we already knew was out, and the other runner was safe. And although we booed heartily befitting such a miscarriage of justice, we should have seen it coming.
Honestly, is there any situation more representative of the handling of the situation with the Chase Utley Rule than Chase Utley scoring a run based on a favorable interpretation of the Chase Utley rule?
It would prove an important run, as we learned later. But at the time, the game went on, Colón holding his own, our offense not mustering much against Kershaw.
The Dodgers pushed across another run in the fifth, but then, finally, we struck in the sixth. Two outs. Two strikes. As is often the case with Kershaw on the mound, a strikeout appears imminent.
Cabrera gets ahold of one, doesn’t get all of it, but enough to launch it to deep left. Howie Kendrick goes back. At the wall, he jumps. Can he reach it?
We’ll never know. Because a fan not content with his role as a spectator reaches over the fence and interferes with the ball. Cabrera rounds the bases. Kendrick signals interference. The call on the field; home run.
But it goes to review, as we knew it would. You can’t take two steps without going to review these days. This one actually deserved a closer look, although it couldn’t possibly have been overturned, based on the video evidence available.
Of course, based on the luck we’ve gotten, from the umpires and otherwise, we weren’t feeling remotely reassured.
But for once, the umpires got it right; they upheld the call, the deficit was cut in half, and the game was competitive once again.
It’s Antonio Bastardo for the seventh, and he does his thing: gets three outs so easily that you’re left wondering how a pitcher that looks so jarringly average can produce outs as if they grow on trees. We can’t hit in the seventh either: Kershaw is still in. We move to the eighth.
It’s Reed. He’s been rock-solid; indeed, he’s (spoiler alert!) making a strong case for consideration as a candidate for closer, if things continue the way they have. And again, he gets three outs.
And also, somewhere in this period of two innings or so, a long, long wave started. It went around the park. It wouldn’t stop. Sensible people everywhere hung their heads in disgust.
“The game? Eh, not so much,” said the wave. “Now, these people standing up in semi-unison, that’s why we’re here; that really catches our attention.” Behind me, I heard two people having detailed discussions about Citi Field’s conduciveness to the wave.
“The upper deck is bigger,” said one of them, as Bastardo successfully navigated a crucial inning and kept us in the game. He seemed really worried about it.
And finally, as the bottom of eighth began — and a fan behind me voiced simultaneous anger and disbelief that the Dodgers would have the temerity to throw Kershaw out there for another inning and take a serious risk of continuing to shut us down — we struck. Plawecki — the second of four consecutive hitters below the Mendoza line, all of them rather significantly so — singled to center. Campbell — miraculously — avoided grounding into a double play, and made only a single out.
Pinch-hitting — which reeked of desperation, seeing as the best left-handed pitcher in the world was on the mound — Michael Conforto slammed one. He’s seemed to do a lot of that this year. It went right to an outfielder. That’s seemed to happen a lot as well. Here’s hoping it turns around, because goodness nows he’s due for some luck. Two outs now, Granderson coming up.
Wayne Randazzo, or maybe someone on Twitter — it’s hard to remember these days, isn’t it? — had noted before the game that in May, Dave Roberts had not left the dugout to remove Clayton Kershaw. Not once. He threw three complete games this month, and put up an E.R.A. substantially under 1.00. And now Roberts was pulling him — again, the best lefty in the world — in favor of another lefty.
You kind of knew — well, you hoped, but it had some sensibility behind it — that the questionable decision would backfire.
Against Adam Liberatore — “Adam Liberator,” said Alex Anthony, and I’ve got to say, there must be a good story behind that last name — Granderson dug in. He’d entered the game barely above the Mendoza line, but had doubled in the first against Kershaw. Of course, Kershaw had ended the threat. Leadoff doubles against Kershaw are like Republican threats to repeal Obamacare. They just don’t seem to lead to anything they’re supposed to.
We know what happened next. Granderson drove one to right. The stadium stood. From my seat in the upper deck behind third base, I was fairly sure that Puig was going to catch it.
Puig lept. I was still fairly sure. And then the ball dropped.
And then it was good, old-fashioned pandemonium, high-fiving strangers like we’d just won the lottery, giving fist pumps worthy of David Wright. We’d tied up the game and Kershaw was gone — in every book but the record book, that’s a win in itself.
With the go-ahead run on third, Asdrubal Cabrera came to the plate, and the stadium came to its feet. And then, in a twist of fate that seemed out of synch with the rest of what was happening, a man tapped me.
“Sit down, please,” he said, from two rows behind me.
I should have turned and told him off. I should have told him, “I’m sorry sir, but we’re looking to take the lead, and this is when you stand up and shout.” I should have let him know what it meant to be a fan.
Instead, I sat down, not so much fuming as sitting in stunned disbelief, feeling like George Costanza after he’s been insulted. And from low down in my seat, I watched Cabrera strike out.
Jeurys Familia has either hit a rough patch or developed a problem, and either way, it didn’t help us tonight. As in Friday’s game, Familia got the out he needed, and in this case two: he just got them one batter too late. An Adrian Gonzalez 2 RBI single — Gonzalez, ironically, was supposed to rake against Colón, but came back to get us against Familia instead — put us behind.
And that was that. Our closer didn’t do his job; theirs did. We went down in the ninth, and what had looked like a hard-fought, extra inning thriller worthy of the ’86 Mets whose rings many of us were wearing turned into a dreary, 4-2 loss.
Look on the bright side though, as Mets fans are supposed to: we’re shot of Utley and the Dodgers. We’re done with them. We’ve had our moments on both sides: now our schedule with them is over, and it’s back to baseball as normal.
Well, that’s only partially true. Because yes, our schedule with them is over. But thanks to the way this series went, it’s hard to think that we’ll ever really be shot of Utley and the Dodgers.