Dodgers and Chase Utley slide to controversial 5-2 victory over Mets in Game 2

October 11, 2015

Los Angeles – On the verge of falling to an 0-2 deficit in Game Two of the 2015 NLDS, the Dodgers staged a gritty four-run rally in the seventh inning sparked by a hard playoff slide from veteran Chase Utley to give Los Angeles a 5-2 home win over the New York Mets in front of 54,455 fans Saturday night.  The series is now tied at one game apiece.

Prior to Utley's slide, the Dodgers had little momentum in the game, or in the series for that matter.

One day after seeing ace Clayton Kershaw receive no run support against the Mets' live-armed Jacob deGrom, it appeared that Dodgers' star pitcher Zack Greinke would be suffering a similar fate versus Mets starter Noah Syndergaard on another hot 90 degree night.

Greinke had been dinged for two solo blasts, the team’s bats seemed to be in a collective funk, and Syndergaard continued to exhibit an electric fastball that reached as high as 101 miles per hour.

Although an RBI double by Andre Ethier in the fourth inning kept the Dodgers on life support and cut the deficit to 2-1, Syndergaard steadied things again with two subsequent shutout innings.

The team entered the seventh inning, a dreaded part of the game lately for this franchise with so many recent Dodgers playoff collapses.  A meek one-run loss seemed to be in the cards.

Then came the pandemonium.

The Dodgers’ Enrique Hernandez drew a one-out walk, bringing up pinch hitter Utley, who promptly hit a bloop single to right field.

With Hernandez at third and Utley at first, second baseman Howie Kendrick hit an otherwise ordinary ground ball off reliever Bartolo Colon that appeared to have double play potential written all over it.

As shortstop Ruben Tejada went to touch second base for the second out, Utley came barreling in a la Pete Rose, upending Tejada with a physical slide to break up the double play.  As a result, Kendrick was safe at first, and Hernandez was able to score from third to even the game at 2-2.

From that point, a series of controversies emerged.

First, Tejada was carted off the field and will miss the remainder of the series with a fractured right fibula.  Utley himself sustained a strong blow to the head from the collision, but remained in the game and did not appear to suffer a concussion.

Second, Utley was ruled out at second, but after a replay review, the call was overturned because Tejada did not actually touch the bag with his foot.

On the other hand, Utley did not appear to touch the bag either.

"They handled it right," said Mets skipper Terry Collins of the ruling.

After a significant delay caused by the replay and the medical attention given to Tejada, Utley’s play galvanized the Boys in Blue, as first baseman Adrian Gonzalez -- who up to that point had struck out six times in his seven at-bats during this series -- hit a double off reliever Addison Reed to bring home Utley and Kendrick and put the Dodgers up 4-2.

Red-hot Justin Turner then followed with another double to right-center field, scoring Gonzalez and putting Los Angeles ahead 5-2.  The shell-shocked Mets would not recover, as Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen pitched a scoreless ninth for his first save of the series.

After the game, all parties focused on Utley's slide with many questioning whether it was too late, or even dirty in nature.

"Broke my shortstop's leg, that's all I know," said Collins.

Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly backed his player, believing Utley had no ill intent.

"The one thing I probably know a hundred percent sure that I know Chase is not trying to hurt anybody," said Mattingly.  "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."

Greinke took the "no comment" approach, stating, "I don't really want to talk about it."

Collins acknowledged the anger boiling within his clubhouse, raising the possibility of retaliation against the Dodgers in Game 3.  Without question, much of that anger stemmed from Utley's slide, but part of it also was the inherent frustration that comes with blowing a golden opportunity to take control of the series.

"I think that our guys will certainly be very, very anxious to get back on the field on Monday," said Collins.

After roughing up Clayton Kershaw in Game One, the Mets wasted little time getting to Greinke.

Slugger Yoenis Cespedes blasted a 2-2 Greinke pitch to the opposite field and over the wall in right for a 1-0 Mets lead in the second inning.  Three batters later, left fielder Michael Conforto hit a frozen rope line drive that hit the right field foul pole for the second home run of the inning and a 2-0 Mets lead.

"He can stinking hit," said a prophetic Collins about Conforto, prior to the game. "This guy can swing the bat, and I have all the confidence that he's going to walk up there with that short stroke and hopefully get something he can put the bat on."

"I made a really bad pitch to Conforto, and he did what he should," explained Greinke of his fastball that became a home run.

Syndergaard, meanwhile, was throwing gas, striking out nine while throwing 90 mph change-ups.

Mattingly altered his personnel in Game 2 to inject more offense into the lineup, replacing slumping Joc Pederson in center with Hernandez, and putting switch-hitting catcher Yasmani Grandal in for A.J. Ellis.  He also moved Howie Kendrick into the leadoff spot, and batted Carl Crawford sixth.

In addition, he employed defensive shifts with regularity on Curtis Granderson, who promptly hit into the shift on three different at-bats and still managed to get on base twice.

On a night when all the Dodgers' moves went for naught, it was Utley's slide that unquestionably changed the game's momentum.  The slide allowed Greinke, who struck out 8, to get the win.

"I think every single guy on the field on both sides, both dugouts would have done the same thing," said Gonzalez.  "It was huge."

MLB's Joe Torre indicated that league will review the play in further detail and hinted that punishment might be doled out for the slide.

"I have to determine if I thought it was excessive," said Torre.

Whether dirty or not, Utley's play likely saved the Dodgers' season.

Now we finally have a series.

By Mike Elliott
Editor for

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