MLB has suspended Dodgers infielder Chase Utley for Games 3 and 4 of the National League Division Series against the Mets for a late slide into second base during Game 2 on Saturday night that left Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada with a broken leg.
Utley will appeal, according to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal. He will be able to take the field until the appeal is settled.
The Dodgers won Game 2 5–2 over the Mets, tying the best-of-5 series at 1–1. Utley was ruled safe on second base upon replay review, which was immediately noted to be a controversial interpretation of MLB rules.
MLB Chief Baseball Officer Joe Torre said that "after thoroughly reviewing the play from all conceivable angles, I have concluded that Mr. Utley's action warrants discipline."
"While I sincerely believe that Mr. Utley had no intention of injuring Ruben Tejada, and was attempting to help his Club in a critical situation, I believe his slide was in violation of Official Baseball Rule 5.09(a)(13), which is designed to protect fielders from precisely this type of rolling block that occurs away from the base.
We have been in discussions with the Players Association throughout the year regarding potential rule changes to better protect middle infielders, and we intend to continue those discussions this offseason."
Rule 5.09(a)(13) reads in full:
[A batter is out when:] A preceding runner shall, in the umpire's judgment, intentionally interfere with a fielder who is attempting to catch a thrown ball or to throw a ball in an attempt to complete any play;
The objective of this rule is to penalize the offensive team for deliberate, unwarranted, unsportsmanlike action by the runner in leaving the baseline for the obvious purpose of crashing the pivot man on a double play, rather than trying to reach the base. Obviously this is an umpire's judgment play.
If the applicable rule had been applied correctly during Game 2, the Mets would have been awarded a double play, and the inning would have been over, with the Mets up 2–1. Because Utley was the runner on base — "preceding runner" — and interfered with Tejada's play at second base, MLB rule 5.09(a)(13) calls the batter out as well.
The Mets quickly released a statement in support of the suspension, calling it "the appropriate course of action."
On Twitter, the Dodgers responded to Utley's decision to appeal:
"The Dodgers stand behind Chase Utley and his decision to appeal the suspension issued tonight by MLB. No further comment at this time."
Lindsey Adler is a sports reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
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