Alexa, play “Lean On Me.”
The Mets secured a 3-2 walk-off win in their home opener Thursday, but, in typical Mets fashion, it came with two dashes of drama and a part of controversy.
With the bases loaded, one out and a tie game with Michael Conforto up in the bottom of the ninth, the Mets outfielder seemingly leaned into a pitch in the strike zone, which would have been good for Strike 3 and out No. 2. Instead, home plate umpire Ron Kulpa ruled Conforto was hit by the pitch, forcing home the winning run.
While the play is reviewable as to whether the ball actually struck him — which it did — Conforto’s intent cannot be reviewed.
But as is the rule, the player must make an effort to get away from the pitch. Conforto, instead, seemingly stuck his arm out to make contact with the ball. Game over. Some speculated that Conforto was fooled by the pitch, which might be the case.
To make matters more interesting, Kulpa looked as if he was going to ring up Conforto for a strikeout but changed his mind.
Umpires have the power to confer and overturn the call, even if Conforto’s intent isn’t reviewable. The rulebook also states that if a ball strikes a batter but the pitch lands within the strike zone, the pitch may be ruled a strike.
Marlins manager Don Mattingly argued with umpires, and several Marlins also tried to make their case heard — to no avail.
After finally seeing a replay himself, Kulpa acknowledged postgame that the pitch was in the zone and Conforto should have been out on strikes.
“We looked at the video afterward and it’s one of those plays where it looked like the guy (Conforto) was hit . . . he was hit by the pitch in the strike zone,” Kulpa told pool reporter Anthony Rieber of Newsday.
“The guy was hit in the strike zone. I should have called him out,” Kulpa told Rieber after a follow-up question.
The SNY booth, featuring former Mets Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling, acknowledged that Conforto leaned into the pitch and placed the onus on umpires to get the call right, which, well, they did not.
It’s just one of 162, but it wouldn’t be Mets Baseball if it wasn’t memorable in some way, right?
This article has been updated with postgame comments from umpire Ron Kulpa.