NEW YORK (Reuters) - Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Chase Utley may not be the only ‘villain’ New York Mets fans love to hate. But right now, he’s certainly the biggest.
Utley launched himself into the conversation on the team’s darkest enemy after he barrel-rolled into shortstop Ruben Tejada while trying to break up a double play in Game Two on Saturday in their National League Division Series.
Not only did the Mets come out on the short end of the game 5-2, they lost Tejada for the rest of the postseason after he broke his leg on the play.
Utley was ruled safe on the play, but Major League Baseball later suspended him for two games for an improper slide.
But with Utley appealing the ruling, he was on the bench for Game Three on Monday in New York, where the fans let him know in no uncertain terms how they felt.
Chants of “Utley sucks!” rocked the stadium during pre-game introductions, drowning out several other introductions, while some fans held signs vowing revenge and urging the Mets to “Win this for Ruben.”
Tejada, wearing a walking cast and using a cane, limped out during the pre-game ceremony to a raucous ovation from the crowd.
“I think the boos at the introductions were kind of a big statement leading into the game,” said Mets starter Matt Harvey when asked if the fans’ reaction was the retaliation the team needed instead of risking anything on the field.
“We knew the biggest thing going in was coming out on top and scoring as many runs as we did kind of did all the talking,” he said after the 13-7 victory gave the Mets a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series.
Fans talked tough about their feelings about Tejada.
“That play was worse than when (Roger) Clemens threw at Mike Piazza,” said Joe Gianone, a 37-year-old office worker from nearby Astoria, New York. “It was completely illegal. He should pay a price, either on the field or off it with the suspension.”
Gianone was referring to an incident when Clemens, pitching for the rival New York Yankees, threw a broken bat at Piazza during the 2000 World Series.
That came after Clemens had hit the former Mets catcher in the head with a pitch earlier in the season.
For his part, Utley has said it was just a hard baseball play and he had no intention of injuring his opponent, while Dodgers manager Don Mattingly decided not to play 12-year veteran Utley.
Mets manager Terry Collins said Tejada inspired the team.
“Certainly Ruben, him walking out there I thought meant a lot to all the guys on the club and the fanbase,” he said.
Editing by Larry Fine and Amlan Chakraborty