The Mets had just taken a 3-2 lead on a run-scoring wild pitch with two outs in the sixth inning when Wrigley Field's iconic ivy came into play. With Michael Conforto at first base, the Mets threatened to tack on with Wilmer Flores' line drive past diving Cubs right fielder Jorge Soler. While Conforto raced around the bases, the ball bounced all the way to the wall and lodged in the ivy.
Fowler, backing up the play, reacted immediately.
"If it gets stuck in there, the first thing you do is stick your hands up," he said.
Fowler knew immediately that the Wrigley Field ground rules on the matter were rather clear. If a fair batted ball lodges in the vines on the bleacher wall, it is a ground-rule double. The batter and each baserunner is entitled to two bases. The umpire has no discretion on the ruling.
So home-plate umpire Ted Barrett ordered Conforto -- who would've scored -- back to third base, and Flores to second, drawing a heated protest from Mets manager Terry Collins.
When play resumed, Cubs pitcher Trevor Cahill recorded the final out of the inning to strand both runners.
"We all know what the rule is," Collins said. "My argument was my runner's halfway to third base, if not three-quarters of the way to third base. I just asked [Barrett whether the Mets could challenge the placement of the runners].
"He said, 'I can't do it.' That's just the rule, can't even challenge it. I wanted him to go to the cameras upstairs. But I knew the rule. It's just, it kind of sucks when it happens to you."
Flores was already around second base when the umpires signaled for a ground-rule double, and was denied a triple.
"I didn't really know what happened," Flores said. "They just told me to go to second base. It was disappointing. There's nothing I can do about it. I don't want to get thrown out [of the game]. But I was still safe. It was disappointing we didn't get the RBI."
"We had a great angle from our view," said Mets reliever Tyler Clippard, watching from the bullpen along the right-field line, "and you could see the ball was going to be an in-between hop. It got by the right fielder, and once it gets by the right fielder, you start cheering the add-on run. Everything is great. And then [it's a] dead ball and [they] stop the play and we're like, 'There is no way they're not going to let this run score because everybody in the world could see that he was obviously going to get to home.' But the rule is the rule and that's something that was unfortunate.
"But it's a testament to the guys that we kept our nose down and didn't let it affect us."
The Mets noticed during batting practice on Tuesday evening that a high percentage of baseballs were getting lodged in the ivy, Collins said. Conforto and other outfielders went over the rules with first-base coach Tom Goodwin before the game.
"[Goodwin] told me, 'If it goes in there, don't put your hand in there. It will be live. Just put your hands up.'" Conforto said. "It was a weird situation. I was stealing on the pitch and was close to scoring already when the ball went in there. It was a weird play, but it's a rule here. We just had to play through it."
Said Collins: "It's what makes the ballpark unique, and certainly I was not very happy at the moment."
He was in a better mood after the Mets closed out their victory. The Cubs will search for some Wrigley Field magic when the series continues Wednesday night (air time 7:30 p.m. ET, game time 8 p.m. on TBS), with Chicago looking to join the 2004 Red Sox in coming back from a 3-0 deficit.