SAN FRANCISCO -- For all the complaining by the New York Mets about the umpiring in the ninth inning on Sunday, catcher Henry Blanco admitted this much afterward: Had it not been for plate umpire Phil Cuzzi, the Mets would have suffered their 11th walk-off loss of the season.
In a wild bottom of the ninth inning, in which both managers argued botched calls and Cuzzi jawed with Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez, K-Rod failed to protect a two-run lead for starter Johan Santana. It should have been a three-run ninth for the San Francisco Giants, which would have resulted in the Mets' suffering a four-game sweep.
Instead, it was the Mets who celebrated a 4-3 win an inning later, after rookie first baseman Ike Davis delivered a run-scoring double in the 10th and K-Rod rebounded in a second inning of work.
Afterward, Cuzzi and the rest of the umpires were escorted off the field at AT&T Park by police officers who were concerned about the angry reaction of Giants fans. Not that the Mets were thrilled with the umps, either. Blanco, in fact, said Major League Baseball should discipline Cuzzi over an exchange with Rodriguez.
The sequence that altered which team won: With K-Rod already having surrendered a game-tying two-run single to Travis Ishikawa, the Giants had two runners in scoring position with one out in the ninth. The Mets pulled their infielders in. Third baseman David Wright then fielded Freddy Sanchez's grounder on the grass and made a high, sidearm throw to the plate.
Ishikawa was safe -- Blanco admitted as much afterward -- but Cuzzi called him out.
"He was safe all the way, so I don't know why," Blanco said, searching for the rationale behind the call. "Good for us."
Asked about whether he believed he had a legitimate shot at tagging out Ishikawa once Wright's throw went high, Blanco added: "Not a chance. Everybody was surprised when he called it out."
Cuzzi told a pool reporter he had not had a chance to see a replay, and that he believed Ishikawa had lifted his leg, giving Blanco an opportunity to apply the tag in time.
"I'll look at it, but I figured I'd eat first," Cuzzi said with a laugh.
One of the two ninth-inning incidents that upset the Mets occurred during the at-bat in which Ishikawa ultimately delivered the two-run single that evened the score at 3. Rodriguez looked like he comfortably threw a strike to Ishikawa on a 1-0 offering, but Cuzzi instead ruled it a ball. K-Rod was upset, but insisted he did not provoke the umpire. Instead, the closer maintained, Cuzzi barked at him.
Manager Jerry Manuel ultimately had to intervene, suggesting Cuzzi "lost his cool."
"I hope someone sees that and punishes him," Blanco said, referring to Cuzzi. "That's one thing that should never happen in a baseball game. It doesn't matter how mad you are, it should not happen, especially from them. I hope somebody was watching that. … He said stuff to Frankie and then he told Jerry he wasn't talking to him, he was talking to our dugout. A lot of weird things. A lot of weird things happened."
Cuzzi, who hails from Nutley, N.J., said he merely was motioning at K-Rod that the pitch was outside.
"Jerry came out and said, 'Hey, what are you yelling at him for?' … I was just very exaggerated in saying the pitch was outside. It's as simple as that," Cuzzi said.
Said Rodriguez: "I didn't say anything to him. I just grabbed the ball and then turned around and he yelled at me and I yelled back to him. I didn't even do any movement, anything at all."
The Mets were upset by more than the exchange between K-Rod and Cuzzi in the ninth. After the botched call at the plate, the Giants once again had two runners in scoring position with two out. Aubrey Huff then sent a squibber barely in front of the plate. The ball was in play, but third base ump Mike Estabrook ruled it struck Huff in the batter's box and was therefore a foul ball. Manuel returned to the field to argue.
Blanco agreed the ninth inning got out of control.
"Yeah," he said. "A few calls that should not happen in this game. The strike. The Huff ground ball, they said it hit his foot. I don't know. Too many weird things happened in one inning."
So count the Mets fortunate to have a 1-3 record post-All-Star break -- having notched a desperately needed win they really didn't deserve. Rodriguez suffered his fifth blown save in 26 chances, yet was credited with the victory.
"I'm thinking the worm has turned," Manuel said. "Things are turning around for us. I thought this was a game for us to win. I really did. I didn't think the baseball [gods] would send us through another inning and still lose. … I didn't think they'd send us through that much pain for extra innings to lose that game."