Many reactions to the perilous slide in LA
Tejada suffers broken leg on controversial play in Game 2
LOS ANGELES -- Five years later, Mets third baseman David Wright once again found himself questioning the intent Chase Utley had when he upended Ruben Tejada at second base with a controversial slide.
Unfortunately, this latest event left Tejada with a broken leg and the Mets sour about the fact that this play factored significantly in the 5-2 loss they suffered to the Dodgers on Saturday night in Game 2 of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium.
"There's a way to play the game hard, but only Chase knows going in there 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. With that being said, he never touched the bag. And I think the neighborhood play is there to protect players from trying to turn double plays, from coming in and getting hurt."
Utley also drew Wright's attention when he took Tejada out with a late slide during a Mets-Phillies game on Sept. 24, 2010. After that incident, the Mets third baseman said, "[Utley] plays the game passionately. But there's a thin line between going out there and playing the game hard and going out there and trying to get somebody hurt."
Unfortunately, this latest event ended Tejada's season and once again forced Utley to account for his actions.
"My focus is seeing the ball," Utley said. "I didn't realize that [Tejada's] back was turned. Everything obviously happens fast. You try to break it up. ... It really depends who you're talking to. But there was no intent to injure Ruben whatsoever."
With runners at the corners, one out and the Mets leading, 2-1, Utley's attempt to break up an unlikely double play attempt turned disastrous when his late slide away from the second-base bag took him directly into the lower right leg of Tejada, who had turned his back in attempt to grab second baseman Daniel Murphy's flip. The fact that Kiké Hernandez scored a game-tying run on the play was far less concerning as Tejada remained on the ground until being carted off the field with a broken right fibula.
Umpires determined the neighborhood play had not occurred because Murphy's flip took Tejada away from the bag and thus reversed Chris Guccione's original out call when a replay review showed Tejada narrowly missed making contact with the second base bag.
"You can try to protect yourself as a middle infielder," Wright said. "I think that's what a lot of the confusion is about, is if the neighborhood play's in place, what qualifies as a neighborhood play? You're talking about it looked like less than an inch. If that's not a neighborhood play, I'm not sure what is. But we had our chances. They put together some good at-bats after that. It's just that one play was the turning point of this game."
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly thought this was just an instance of Utley's aggression producing a devastating consequence.
"I don't know if I need to get into if it's clean or anything else," Mattingly said. "I felt like Chase was sliding hard, trying to win. I've seen the replay. The one thing I probably know a hundred percent ... Chase is not trying to hurt anybody. He's just playing the game the way he plays it. He plays it hard, he's aggressive, and I think that's the way he plays it."
After the out was erased, the Dodgers evened this best-of-five series courtesy of consecutive two-out doubles by Adrian Gonzalez and Justin Turner notched off Addison Reed in the seventh inning. Now as Matt Harvey prepares to take the mound for the Mets in Game 3 on Monday night at Citi Field, there is reason to wonder if there might be some retribution.
While the Mets certainly didn't believe Utley's intention was to cause injury, they certainly questioned why he was given the benefit on a play in which he took out a defenseless middle infielder with a late slide and then was awarded second base, which he hadn't touched.
"[Tejada] has a broken leg because he absolutely got crushed on [a player going] just straight into him, no slide," Mets veteran Kelly Johnson said. "That's the issue. We've got rules for catchers. There's something there. If we've got rules in the rulebook for catchers, we've got to have something for the other bases.
"There should be something there to protect [middle infielders] when a [sliding player] doesn't hit the ground first. How is it a slide if he hits the player first? If [Utley] hits dirt first, I'm not going to say anything."