Mets' Ruben Tejada fractures lower leg on Chase Utley's hard slide

ByMark Saxon ESPN logo
Sunday, October 11, 2015

LOS ANGELES -- Mets shortstop Ruben Tejadasuffered a fracture to the fibula of his lower right leg in a nasty collision at second base Saturday night in the seventh inning of a Game 2 loss to the Dodgersin the NL Divison Series.

The Dodgers' Chase Utley slid late and hit Tejada hard just as Tejada was turning around to attempt a double play on a grounder hit by Howie Kendrick. Tejada flipped over Utley and landed hard on his left side.

The Dodgers went on to score a total of four runs in the inning en route to a 5-2 victory, which tied the series at 1-1.

Mets trainers wrapped padding around Tejada's right leg, and he was transported off the field on a cart, giving a little fist pump on his way out.

The play proved pivotal in the game. The Dodgers scored the tying run, and after a replay review, the umpires ruled that Tejada had never touched the second-base bag, awarding Utley second.

After the game, several Mets players questioned Utley's slide, including left fielderMichael Cuddyer, who said of the play, "That's not a slide. That's a tackle."

"We're losing our starting shortstop now for the rest of the playoffs," second basemanKelly Johnsonsaid. "He's got a broken fibula. It cost us potentially this game. And we don't have anything to show for it.

"Chase is playing hard," he said. "He's doing his thing. He's in the moment. That's not the issue. The issue is he hit our shortstop first before hitting dirt. The question is at, one, is that illegal? At what point do we say, 'Hey, man, we missed something here.' We've got rules at home plate to protect our guys. What's the difference? Ruben stuck his neck out there to make a play to try to get the bag and then to turn to make a throw. And before he can get the ball out of the glove he's getting tackled."

Mets manager Terry Collins said Wilmer Flores will replace Tejada at shortstop for the rest of the series.

Collins wouldn't get into whether he thought Utley's slide was clean or dirty -- "Broke my shortstop's leg, that's all I know," he said -- but he said he thought the umpires were "great" in how they handled the review.

"They thought that it's pretty hard to rule that he didn't touch the bag when he hit the shortstop and nobody was tagged, so they have no other call," he said. "So they handled it right."

Utley said he defines a "dirty slide" as one in which the base runner comes in with his cleats high or makes contact with the fielder before the runner's body hits the ground to start his slide. He said he wasn't aware Tejada's back was turned before he went after him with the aggressive slide.

"The tying run's on third base, I'm going hard to try to break up the double play," Utley said. "I feel terrible that he was injured. I had no intent of hurting him whatsoever."

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly defended Utley.

"I know Chase is not trying to hurt anybody," he said. "He's just playing the game the way he plays it. He plays it hard, he's aggressive."

Joe Torre, Major League Baseball's chief baseball officer, said MLB would look into the play and whether it warrants any discipline.

"The lateness of the slide, that concerns me," Torre said. "But we're still talking about it. I'm still in charge of determining if it was an over-the-top thing. ... I'm looking at it to see if there's anything that should be done.

"I certainly don't feel that he was trying to hurt somebody," he said of Utley. "I think his goal was breaking up a double-play, and in doing that someone broke their leg."

Torre also said umpires were correct to award Utley second base after the Dodgers asked for a video review, which determined Tejada did not touch the base on the play. Utley did not touch the base on the slide.

"He never needed to touch the base because the umpire called him out," Torre said. "You're correcting the umpire's mistake. In that situation, going to replay and they see the runner never touched the base, but the umpire called him out, by replay rules we can correct the situation and put the runner on the bag."

Torre said Tejada was not subject to the protection of the "neighborhood play," which allows fielders to not touch the base but still be credited with the out. The throw Tejada received from second baseman Daniel Murphy took Tejada away from the bag.

Utley had entered the game in the seventh as a pinch hitter and singled to right, giving the Dodgers runners at the corners before Kendrick hit a sharp grounder to Daniel Murphy, who flipped it to Tejada.

This wasn't the first time Utley and Tejada were involved in a hard play at second base. As a member of thePhiladelphia Phillies, Utley hadangered Mets players in 2010, when he also upended Tejada at second with an aggressive slide.

"He's a second baseman. If he wants guys sliding like that into him, then it's perfectly fine,"David Wrightsaid back then. "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 haveany problem with it. It's a legal slide. It's within the rules. But somebody is going to get hurt."

With Tejada expected to be replaced on the roster,Eric Campbellis the most logical player to be added. Eric Young Jr. also is working out at the Mets' complex in Florida and available.

The action shifts to Citi Field in New York for Game 3 Monday, when Brett Anderson starts for the Dodgers against the Mets' Matt Harvey in the best-of-five series.

The Dodgers' Zack Greinke (1-0) allowed two runs and five hits in seven innings. He struck out eight and walked none a night after teammate Clayton Kershaw fanned 11 while losing his fifth straight postseason game.

Kenley Jansen pitched the ninth for the save, completing a five-hitter.

Yoenis Cespedes and Michael Conforto hit solo homers in the second, the latter off the right-field pole. Andre Ethier had an RBI double in the fourth.

Noah Syndergaard(0-1) gave up three runs and five hits in 6 1/3 innings of his first career postseason start. He struck out nine and walked four in following up Jacob deGrom's 13-strikeout performance in winning Game 1. Eight of Syndergaard's first 36 pitches reached 100 mph or more over the first two innings on an unseasonable 90-degree evening.

"Anytime you can go 1-1 against Kershaw and Greinke in their house, I guess we'll take it," Wright said. "But we wanted to get greedy and head back to New York with a 2-0 lead." Mets reporter Adam Rubin and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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