MLB suspends Chase Utley two games for late slide in NLDS
Safe at second base — and suspended for two games.
Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Chase Utley was banned for two playoff games by Major League Baseball on Sunday after his late takeout slide that broke New York Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada's right leg.
Utley's agent called the penalty ''outrageous and completely unacceptable'' and said there would be an appeal.
The Mets and Dodgers are tied at 1 in the best-of-five National League Division Series.
An appeal would allow Utley to play until the hearing process is complete. MLB likely would try to resolve the matter before the series resumes Monday night with Game 3 at Citi Field.
In handing down the penalty, MLB executive Joe Torre called it an illegal slide. Umpires ruled it a legal play Saturday night, and Utley was even awarded second base after a replay review showed Tejada never touched the bag with his toe.
Torre said after a complete examination, he concluded Utley's slide merited punishment.
Utley's agent, Joel Wolfe, saw it differently.
''Chase did what all players are taught to do in this situation — break up the double play,'' Wolfe said in a statement.
''We routinely see plays at second base similar to this one that have not resulted in suspensions. Chase feels terrible about Ruben Tejada's injury and everyone who knows him knows that he would never intentionally hurt anybody. We will be appealing this suspension immediately,'' he said.
When the Mets and Dodgers played in the 1988 NL Championship Series, there also was a suspension. Dodgers reliever Jay Howell was penalized three games for having pine tar in his glove — he appealed, and his suspension was cut to two games.
The 36-year-old Utley, a six-time All-Star, has a part-time role with the Dodgers after they acquired him Aug. 19 from Philadelphia. But before the suspension was announced, manager Don Mattingly said Utley might start Game 3.
In their statement, the Dodgers said they stand behind Utley and his decision to appeal.
With the Dodgers trailing by one run in the seventh inning Saturday, Utley slammed into Tejada at second base to make sure the Mets could not complete a double play that would have kept them ahead. Utley went in high and hard, crashing into Tejada's legs and flipping the shortstop head over heels.
The tying run scored, Tejada was wheeled off with a fractured fibula and the Dodgers rallied for three more runs in the inning, going on to a 5-2 victory that evened the series.
''After thoroughly reviewing the play from all conceivable angles, I have concluded that Mr. Utley's action warrants discipline," Torre said.
The Mets quickly released a statement saying they ''completely support the decision'' and ''feel this was the appropriate course of action.''
Since June 21, Arrieta is 17-1 with a microscopic 0.81 ERA in his last 21 starts. The stretch includes a no-hitter against the NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers, and a five-hit shutout at Pittsburgh in the wild-card game last Wednesday.
''With this decision behind us, the team and our fans can now focus on playing winning baseball,'' the club said.
Torre said MLB has been talking with the players' union this year about potential rules changes to better protect middle infielders.
''We intend to continue those discussions this offseason,'' he said.
Utley batted .212 with eight homers and 39 RBIs in 107 games with the Phillies and Dodgers this season. He hit .202 with three home runs and nine RBIs in 34 games with Los Angeles.
Utley had a pinch-hit single in the seventh inning Saturday to help the Dodgers rally.
Cubs turn to Arrieta
Wearing a sleeveless T-shirt with ''WE ARE GOOD'' in big block lettering across the front, Jake Arrieta looked at ease while he mingled with teammates Sunday morning.
The bearded Cubs ace was one cool customer heading into Game 3 of the deadlocked NL Division Series on Monday night. He also was the biggest challenge for the St. Louis Cardinals, who insist they will be ready for the first playoff game at Wrigley Field in seven years.
''We've gone up against a number of teams and a number of pitchers where everybody kind of ruled us out and said you can't do this or that, and I think this team has responded well in the past,'' Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
The past includes two wins against Clayton Kershaw in last year's playoffs, and a long history of postseason success. It also includes a victory over Arrieta in May, but that was before he went on one of the most dominant runs baseball has seen.
''I've been through a lot in my career, and the failure that I've gone through makes me really appreciate the moments of success much more,'' said Arrieta, who looked as if he might be on his way out of baseball when he was traded from Baltimore to Chicago in July 2013.
''I've had some pretty dark times in this game in my career. You know, but I was dedicated to getting over the hump, to putting in the time, the effort, making any adjustments necessary to get to this point.''
Arrieta's fastball gets into the mid-90s, but his best pitch is a devastating slider that he can throw like a cut fastball and often induces comically weak swings from baffled batters. He had 236 strikeouts in 229 innings this year.
With each successful start, Arrieta has grown more and more confident. Same for the rest of the Cubs, who marvel at the consistency of the big righthander.
''Even what he's doing now, he still knows he can be better,'' first baseman Anthony Rizzo said. ''I don't even know how that's possible.''
Of course, everyone said the same thing about Kershaw when he was the NL MVP and won his third Cy Young Award last year, and he dropped both of his playoff starts against St. Louis. The Cardinals made it all the way to the NL Championship Series, and then led the majors with 100 wins this season.
So while the Cardinals themselves are wondering how to knock off Arrieta, they are confident, too.
''It's pretty similar to the same scenario we were in last year,'' said St. Louis third baseman Matt Carpenter, who played with Arrieta at TCU and included the pitcher in his wedding. ''Kershaw was having a season for the ages. Nobody thought we could beat him. We found a way to scratch and claw our way to victory. We'll see if we can do it with Jake.''
A return to form for Michael Wacha would be a big help against the stingy Arrieta, who hasn't lost at home since July 25. Wacha, who was the MVP of the 2013 NLCS as a rookie, led St. Louis with 17 wins this year, but struggled to a 7.88 ERA in five September starts.
The last time Wacha was on the mound in the playoffs, he served up a game-ending homer to Travis Ishikawa in Game 5 of the 2014 NLCS at San Francisco.
''Just excited for this opportunity this year, being a part of this amazing team and looking forward to seeing what we can do in this postseason,'' Wacha said.
The first game of the playoffs went quite well for St. Louis, which beat Chicago, 4-0, behind a strong start for John Lackey. But the wild-card Cubs bounced back in Game 2, winning, 6-3, on Saturday to send the best-of-five series to Wrigley tied at a game apiece.
The Cardinals had announced that Lance Lynn would start Game 4 on Tuesday, but Matheny said they are considering all options right now. Asked if Lackey was going to throw a side session Sunday to prepare for a potential Game 5 start, Matheny responded: ''We're just going to kind of wait on that right now.''
For his part, Cubs manager Joe Maddon said he wasn't ready to announce his Game 4 starter, either. It seems as if everyone is focused on the next matchup of the longtime rivals.
''I don't take anything for granted,'' Maddon said. ''I don't think any of us do. I hope not. The other teams are really good. The team we're playing tomorrow is very good. So you can't assume anything.''
The 91-year-old Bush, recovering after breaking a vertebra in his neck in a summer spill, smiled broadly when the crowd cheered after he was brought onto the field. With wife Barbara by his side, he bounced a short throw from about 5 feet in front of the plate to Houston's Jed Lowrie, who was set up to catch.
Bush is a longtime Astros fan with a home in Houston.
Beltre out of lineup
Third baseman Adrian Beltre was not in the Texas Rangers' lineup for Game 3 of the AL Division Series.
Manager Jeff Banister said Beltre was improving and still getting treatment for his strained lower back before Sunday night's game against the Toronto Blue Jays. Texas led the best-of-five series, 2-0.
Beltre strained his back sliding into second base during the opener in Toronto on Thursday and exited early. He sat out Game 2 on Friday and stayed home to rest when the Rangers worked out Saturday.
Asked how Beltre was able to do better Sunday, Banister answered, ''Move.''
Banister said he wouldn't rule out Beltre coming to find the manager to tell him he was capable of playing.