Two Big Innings Even Both NLDS Matchups

Two innings of baseball defined Saturday in the National League Division Series. A big second inning for the Chicago Cubs and a clutch seventh inning for the Los Angeles Dodgers helped both teams tie up their series in St. Louis and against New York respectively. The Cubs beat the Cardinals 6-3 and the Dodgers rallied to beat the Mets 5-2.

We’ll start with the Dodgers-Mets inning because it’s drawing the most attention today. The Mets led 2-1 in the seventh and Los Angeles had tied it 2-2 with runners on the corners and one out.  A bouncing ball went up the middle. Mets’ second baseman Daniel Murphy stopped it, flipped it Ruben Tejada for what it appeared to be the force out. Tejada pivoted to try and turn the inning-ending double play when he was barreled into by Chase Utley.

No double play and Tejada came down with a broken leg. To add insult to injury, a replay showed that Tejada hadn’t touched the bag. While Utley hadn’t either, the umpires let him off the hook on the grounds that he had been incorrectly called out. He returned to second base. The Mets immediately got the second out, but the Dodgers then scored three runs.

New York was furious afterwards, feeling Utley had deliberately taken out Tejada. You can view the entire video here. My own thoughts—I don’t think it was deliberate, but I wonder if that matters. The rule clearly states a player can’t begin a late slide to take out an infielder, and whatever Utley’s intent, this appears to be late, which means he should have been called out.

I hesitate to push this view too strongly for two reasons—the first is that I worry that the fact I’m strongly rooting for the Mets in this series is tainting my view. The second is that, while a blown call could justify giving up one additional run and losing 3-2, I don’t know that it forgives the Dodgers opening the floodgates and putting the game out of reach. Every team has to overcome some adversity and this was not a good demonstrating of that by the Mets’ bullpen.

In any event, it concluded a two-game segment in which New York did what they had to do and stole a win in Los Angeles, giving Matt Harvey a chance to put the Mets in command of the series on Monday when the Dodgers can’t use Zack Greinke or Clayton Kershaw. And it concludes a Game 2 in which Greinke again did what he does best, and that’s pull Kershaw’s posterior out of the fire, just as Greinke did last year when he won Game 2 against St. Louis following a Kershaw meltdown in the opener.

The late afternoon/early evening game from St. Louis saw the Cardinals act in a manner we’re not accustomed to seeing and that’s implode. In the fateful second inning, they committed two errors and the Cubs, with an infield hit and a couple safety squeezes, scored three times without ever hitting the ball out of the infield.

Maybe I should retract the part about saying this inning was un-Cardinal like. Because actually it looked like Games 1 & 6 of the 2013 World Series where St. Louis had defensive meltdowns in Fenway Park. The Cardinals are to baseball what the San Antonio Spurs are to basketball—we correctly attribute high intangibles to these organizations, but perhaps get carried away in assuming they’ll never, ever beat themselves in a big game. San Antonio shot themselves in the foot last spring and St. Louis did the same yesterday.

One Chicago player who had no issue with hitting the ball out of the infield was Jorge Soler. He took the place of the red-hot Kyle Schwarber in the lineup as Joe Maddon played the righty-lefty card against St. Louis southpaw Jaime Garcia. It paid off in a big way, as Soler was 2-for-2 with two walks and in the fateful second inning, he put on the exclamation point with a two-run blast.

The National League teams will take a day off to travel today and resume play in Wrigley Field and Citi Field on Monday. The American League picks up today with Game 3 action. Houston hosts Kansas City at 4:30 PM ET on MLB Network, with the Astros sending Dallas Kuechel to the mound. Texas goes for the sweep against Toronto at 8 PM ET on FoxSports 1. It’s all part of a big day in the Lone Star State, that comes on top of Texas beating Oklahoma in college football yesterday and the Cowboys hosting the Patriots late this afternoon.