Given second chance, Mets pull out victory

Given second chance, Mets pull out victory

SAN FRANCISCO -- Shortly after one of their more bizarre victories of this season, five Mets huddled around a laptop in the visiting clubhouse at AT&T Park. They were dissecting the calls of home-plate umpire Phil Cuzzi -- strikes they thought were balls, balls they believed were strikes.

Cuzzi, as much as anyone on either team, played a significant role in the Mets' 4-3 victory in 10 innings over the Giants. He angered both sides. He made an incorrect call that stole a victory from the Giants. He appeared to shout at Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez.

Such were the dramatics of Sunday's victory, which ended in rather anticlimactic fashion after Ike Davis doubled home Jason Bay in the 10th. But it was, if nothing else, a victory -- and for that the Mets felt blessed.

"We were in a situation where we kind of felt like we had no business losing that game," Bay said. "And then we had no business winning that game."

Most of the pertinent business occurred in the bottom of the ninth. With one out in a tie game, Freddy Sanchez hit a grounder to the left side, where David Wright gloved it and fired high to the plate. There, Mets catcher Henry Blanco grabbed the ball and pulled his glove downward, tagging Travis Ishikawa in one slick motion.

Cuzzi called Ishikawa out, saying afterward that he thought he saw his leg fly up, preventing him from ever touching the plate. Video replays, however, clearly confirmed that Ishikawa was safe and the game should have ended right there.

"He made a decent attempt to put the tag on him," Cuzzi said of Blanco. "That's what it looked to me, and that's why I called him out."

"He was safe all the way," Blanco admitted. "Good for us."

Good for the Mets indeed, especially considering their frustrations had already reached explosive levels. Earlier in the ninth, Cuzzi began shouting and gesturing when Rodriguez stared in toward the plate following what he believed was a called strike one to Andres Torres. Cuzzi insisted afterward that he was not yelling at Rodriguez, but rather informing him that the pitch was off the plate.

"I was just very exaggerated in saying the pitch was outside," Cuzzi said. "It's as simple as that."

Either way, the Mets were not pleased.

"I hope somebody sees that and punishes him," Blanco said. "That's one thing that could never happen in a baseball game. It doesn't matter how mad you are, it should not happen."

"If anybody has to keep a cool head, it has to be the umpires that are judging and making decisions out there," Mets manager Jerry Manuel said. "I thought he kind of lost it a little bit."

Most of Manuel's players murmured their own agreements.

"If he felt that I showed him up," Rodriguez said, "I wasn't trying to."

Moments earlier, Rodriguez blew his fifth save of the season when Ishikawa doubled home two runs, spoiling Johan Santana's eight strong innings.

It was not until after Cuzzi's blown call, Davis' game-winning double and Rodriguez's redemptive 10th inning that the Mets were able to regain their composure.

Both the Mets and Giants had other issues with Cuzzi, as well. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, for example, Aubrey Huff hit a nubber in front of home plate that the Mets believed was the third out of the inning. Third-base umpire Mike Estabrook overruled Cuzzi's initial -- and correct -- ruling that it was a fair ball and an out, though that much became inconsequential after Huff grounded out to end the inning.

A half-inning earlier, Wright survived what easily could have been a called strike three on a breaking ball from reliever Chris Ray. Cuzzi called the pitch a ball, allowing Wright to draw a walk on the next pitch.

Two batters later, Davis doubled home a critical insurance run.

"These guys, they have a tough job to do," Ishikawa said. "Today it just feels like we were on the short end of the stick."

For 8 1/2 innings it seemed that the Giants would come up short the old-fashioned way: by just plain losing. Santana was that good, holding them to nothing more than Buster Posey's sacrifice fly in the first. The Mets had taken their first lead of the series on Wright's homer in the fourth and despite the slim margin were cruising.

Then Rodriguez walked the leadoff batter in the ninth, setting the stage for a long string of dramatics. He was angry. Cuzzi was angry. Ishikawa was angry.

But on this day, the Mets held the trump card.

They won.

"This locker room would have been a lot different right now [if we had lost]," right fielder Jeff Francoeur said.

As it was, the Mets were not particularly thrilled with their weekend in San Francisco, dropping their first three games here and perhaps deserving to lose the fourth. But they have quickly become an opportunistic bunch.

"Now," Rodriguez said, brushing Sunday's ninth inning aside, "we've got to win."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.