Thursday, June 16, 2011

Mets’ Loss on Balk in the 10th Evokes Another Bad Ending

ATLANTA — Chipper Jones had seen something like it before, almost a dozen years earlier. On that occasion he was streaming out of the dugout to join a wild celebration. 
This time he was in the trainer’s room getting a shot to relieve a strained muscle in his leg. But when a game between the Mets and the Braves at Turner Field is decided in extra innings with a Braves player jogging home as teammates race out of the dugout to mob him, it evokes memories of one the
most famous moments in this rivalry. It was the 11th inning of Game 6 of the 1999 National League Championship Series here when the Mets’ Kenny Rogers walked Andruw Jones on a bases-loaded, 3-2 pitch and Gerald Williams trotted home with the pennant-winning run. This time, it was Diory Hernandez trotting home from third base in the 10th inning after D. J. Carrasco balked, giving the Braves a 9-8 victory. The difference between October and June is obvious, but the scene was striking. “Yeah, I could see that,” Jones said. “A walk and a balk. The difference is that one ended a season.” Twelve years ago, Jones batted third in that playoff game, just as he did on Thursday, and even at 39 he is dangerous. He swatted a three-run homer — his 47th against the Mets — and matched his career high with five runs batted in before he was removed with a strained adductor muscle in his upper right leg. With Jones out, Brooks Conrad hit a game-tying two-run, pinch-hit home run off Francisco Rodriguez with one out in the ninth, breaking Rodriguez’s streak of 19 consecutive save opportunities converted. In the 10th, Carrasco, who had not committed a balk since he became a full-time reliever in 2008, gave up a two-out double to Hernandez, who went to third on Jordan Schafer’s ground ball. Second baseman Ruben Tejada was in position to get the ball, but overzealous first baseman Lucas Duda ran in front of him and booted it. With runners at first and third, Carrasco looked in for a sign from the catcher against Jason Heyward. He came to a set position, but didn’t like what he saw. Instead of stepping off the mound, he hesitated, then went to look in again for another sign. 
The home plate umpire, James Hoye, immediately called the balk, and it was so blatant that no one argued. “Not too many things get to me,” Carrasco said, “but to lose a game like that, that’s hard to swallow.” As Jones said, it’s always a little strange to win a game on a play like that, no matter what month it is. “You almost feel like you took something you didn’t deserve,” he said. “You’d rather get a hit, but you take it. It got us to the World Series once.” 
 Jose Reyes had three hits, including his major-league-leading 12th triple. He has 101 hits in 66 games, six games fewer than it took Lance Johnson to set the previous Mets record in 1996 for fewest games needed to reach 100 hits ... 
Scott Hairston hit a three-run homer in the fifth to help wipe out a 6-2 deficit.

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