Mets miss chance to reclaim first place in bizarre loss to Dodgers; L.A. wins in extras for just second time


For a while, Friday night’s game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets at Citi Field looked like a fairly predictable affair. 

The superior Dodgers barged to a 4-0 lead behind a strong start from Julio Urias, and going into the bottom of the seventh they appeared to be on their way to a semi-easy win. James McCann and Kevin Pillar struck out to begin the frame, and at that point the Dodgers had a 96.8 percent chance of winning the series opener. That’s when things changed. 

A pinch-hit double, single, walk, intentional walk, and another single brought the Mets to within a run at 4-3. Then Pete Alonso scooted home on a passed ball that Mets color commentator Ron Darling all but saw coming: 

Heard prominently in the background is the largest Citi Field crowd since 2019. The Dodgers escaped further damage, but the Mets were tied at home and seemed bound headlong for their fourth straight win. Given that the Phillies had lost to the Reds earlier in the evening, the Mets with a win could’ve reclaimed first place in the NL East after falling out of the top spot back on Aug. 6 for the first time in 90 days. 

In the top of the ninth, however, the Dodgers got the potential go-ahead run into scoring position when Billy McKinney worked a lead-off walk and then advanced to second on a two-out balk by Edwin Díaz. That brought NL MVP candidate Max Muncy to the plate. Muncy had doubled and singled earlier in the game, and given that he held the platoon advantage against Díaz, this kind of sentiment wasn’t hard to find: 

Mets skipper Luis Rojas, however, opted to let his closer face the powerful lefty. Díaz was able to get to an 0-2 count thanks to a couple of well placed sliders away, but at that point the game was delayed briefly because it appeared a fan trained a laser pointer on Muncy’s eyes: 

That’s obviously a stupid and dangerous thing to do when a hitter is facing major league pitching. Here’s hoping stadium security was able to figure out who was operating the laser pointer. Anyhow, Muncy swung and missed at another slider for strike three. There’s no way to say for sure, but it’s possible the threat of the laser was lodged in his head as the pitch approached the plate and influenced the outcome. After that third strike and extinguished threat, the Mets had a 62.8 percent chance of winning the game

The game progressed to the 10th inning, which is notable because the Dodgers were 1-12 — yes, one win and 12 losses — in extras this season. That wouldn’t seem especially notable if this were, say, the Orioles or Diamondbacks, but the Dodgers are of course one of the best teams in baseball — at least through the first nine innings. Will Smith, though, seemingly had enough of all that, and straightaway he mashed a lead-off, two-run homer, which is made possible by the automatic runner rule in extras: 

Consider that game-tying passed ball permitted by Smith earlier in the night to be atoned for. 

In the bottom of the 10th, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts not only allowed closer Kenley Jansen to pitch two full frames for the first time in 2021, but he also intentionally walked the potential go-ahead run. With two on and two out and a one-run lead, though, Jansen was able to get pinch-hitter Tomás Nido to lift a fly ball to left for the final out of the game. 

That 6-5 triumph (box score) gave the Dodgers their 70th win of the season against 46 losses. The Mets, meantime, slipped back to three games over .500 and, yes, second place in the NL East. 

A win by the Mets on Friday would’ve been a welcome respite from the knowledge that ace Jacob deGrom has no clear timetable for a return from injury and from the weight of having to play 13 straight against the mighty Dodgers and Giants. Alas and alack, they instead became just the second team all year to lose to the Dodgers in extras. 


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