NEW YORK -- As the opening strains of "God Bless America" floated down from Citi Field's public address system on Sunday afternoon, tens of thousands rose from their seats for the seventh-inning stretch. "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and "Lazy Mary" followed in what has become a Flushing tradition.
Then the top of the seventh resumed.
In a bizarre replay review, umpires overturned a force play at second base several minutes after both teams left the field, creating a confusing scene that led to a Pittsburgh run in an 11-1 win over the Mets.
"A part of you feels like Murphy's Law has been in effect to this point," Mets second baseman Neil Walker said. "It's kind of like, 'When it's raining, it's pouring.' When things haven't gone well, they really haven't gone well."
Even for the Mets, however, they haven't always gone this curiously awry. With a man on first base and one out in the seventh, John Jaso hit a grounder to third base, resulting in what appeared to be a routine, inning-ending 5-4-3 double play. But Pirates manager Clint Hurdle successfully challenged, with the game's replay official ruling Walker's foot was not on the bag when the ball touched the interior of his glove.
Only after the seventh-inning stretch concluded did the Mets jog back out to the field, resulting in a round of boos. The next batter, David Freese, singled, plating a run as more boos rained down from the stands.
Then the half-inning ended and "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" played a second time.
"I can't ever say I've been through that," said Walker, a nine-year big league veteran.
"I was like, there's no way they can overturn this or even allow a challenge with 'God Bless America' going on," said Freese. "We were already trying to challenge, then they started singing so we backed off. It gives you an extra minute to watch. Respectfully, we were already trying. They're going to have to figure that out. If there's a close play like that that can be challenged, the stadium needs to understand we need to wait a little bit before they start singing."
According to Mets manager Terry Collins, crew chief Jim Reynolds was aware of Hurdle's desire for a challenge before "God Bless America" began. But the umpire was unable to initiate it in time, and he did not want to interrupt the singing, leading to the bizarre scene in both dugouts. It took several minutes before Walker realized his footwork around the bag was even in question.
"I still don't know," Walker said, shaking his head in the postgame clubhouse. "Obviously, the instant replay said that I was clearly off second base."
Walker had two specific issues with the play, both grounded in what he defined as common sense. Firstly, Walker said, he is concerned for the safety of middle infielders, who must stick close to the second-base bag longer than ever before on double-play attempts. Secondly, he was upset that Josh Harrison was called safe at second despite peeling out of the basepath when Walker caught the ball.
"I guess that's what replay's for -- to get the play right," Walker said. "But that's really stretching it. I looked at it. It's arbitrary at best."