A day after Jacob deGrom outdueled Clayton Kershaw, Noah Syndergaard similarly was outpitching Zack Greinke at Dodger Stadium. Then a seventh-inning takeout slide by Utley on shortstop Ruben Tejada dramatically altered the complexion of the National League Division Series.
On Syndergaard’s 115th and final pitch, the ex-Phillie Utley delivered a pinch-hit single that placed runners on the corners.
With the Mets clinging to a 2-1 lead, manager Terry Collins summoned Bartolo Colon for the 42-year-old right-hander’s first career postseason relief appearance. Colon coaxed a potential inning-ending double-play grounder from Howie Kendrick. Second baseman Daniel Murphy backhanded the baseball and shoveled it to the off-balance Tejada. Utley slid late and high into the vulnerable Tejada’s right leg, upending Tejada as the tying run scored.
Tejada needed to be carted off the field. Meanwhile, adding insult to injury, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly successfully challenged the play. Replay officials determined Tejada never touched second base to record the out on Utley.
Long a thorn, Utley had particularly angered Mets players back in 2010, when he also upended Tejada at second base with a very aggressive slide during a game in Philadelphia. Tejada managed to stay in that contest.
"He's a second baseman. If he wants guys sliding like that into him, then it's perfectly fine,” David Wright said of Utley afterward. “He knows how to play the game. If he doesn't mind guys coming in like that when he's turning a double play, then we don't have any problem with it. It's a legal slide. It's within the rules. But somebody is going to get hurt.”
Before the Utley drama, the Mets were bidding to perform a rare feat -- defeating the Dodgers in games consecutively started by Kershaw and Greinke.
Kershaw and Greinke have started back-to-back games 79 times during the regular season in their careers. In only four of those instances did the Dodgers lose consecutive games.
Thumbs up: Where would the Mets’ offense be without the late-July additions of Yoenis Cespedes from the Detroit Tigers and Michael Conforto from Double-A Binghamton? Both players took Greinke deep in the second inning as the Amazins grabbed a 2-0 lead.
Conforto’s homer made a beeline for the right-field foul pole, registering 118 mph off his bat, according to ESPN Home Run Tracker.
Conforto became the second player in franchise history to homer in his first postseason at-bat, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Edgardo Alfonzo had a solo homer against Arizona’s Randy Johnson in Game 1 of the 1999 NLDS. Conforto also became the second-youngest player in franchise history to homer in the postseason (22 years, 223 days). Only Wayne Garrett did so at a younger age (21 years, 307 days). Garrett’s homer came Oct. 6, 1969, against the Atlanta Braves in the NLCS.
Conforto did not appear in Game 1 because Collins has committed to a platoon in left field, with Michael Cuddyer starting against left-handed pitching.
Meanwhile, how hard was Syndergaard throwing? He registered 101.1 mph in the first inning. Travis d'Arnaud had to swap out his broken catcher’s glove in the third inning.
Syndergaard’s sizzling fastball did dip to the mid-90s in the fourth, when Turner and Andre Ethier opened the frame with consecutive doubles to pull the Dodgers within 2-1.
Thumbs down: A night after his clutch two-run single, Wright twice grounded into double plays. D’Arnaud, meanwhile, struck out three times Saturday and is hitless in seven postseason at-bats.
What’s next: The Mets fly overnight to JFK. They have an optional workout Sunday at Citi Field that is expected to be sparsely attended. Matt Harvey (13-8, 2.71 ERA) opposes left-hander Brett Anderson (10-9, 3.69) in Game 3 on Monday.