After coming off a shortened, yet shaky 1-2 start against the Philadelphia Phillies, the New York Mets started their home season against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field. With the Mets being allowed to hold limited capacity of fans in their stadium, they graciously hosted roughly 8,000 fans on a beautiful day in Queens.
After the Mets’ debutant Taijuan Walker pitched 5 scoreless, the offense finally broke through and scored the first run of the game from a Dom Smith sacrifice fly. The Marlins quickly responded with 2 runs in the top of the 6th with RBI hits from Corey Dickerson and Jesus Aguilar.
Fast forward to the bottom of the ninth, the score is still 2-1 with the Marlins trying to hold on. Leading off was second baseman and birthday boy Jeff McNeil, who started the year 0 for 10 hitting. On a 2-1 count, McNeil launched a fastball over the right field fence and then also launched his bat in celebration. After an out, two hits and an intentional walk, Michael Conforto stepped into the batter’s box with the bases loaded.
Just an epic bat flip from Jeff McNeil, who is celebrating his 29th birthday today. He's the 16th Met to homer on his birthday, and it's a monstrous, game-tying blast in the bottom of the ninth. pic.twitter.com/pUm29YBHtH
— Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) April 8, 2021
After barely making his way to a 1-2 count with a few extra foul balls, Marlins’ closer Anthony Bass painted a slider into the upper inside corner for strike three.
Not according to home plate umpire Ron Kulpa, at least.
As Kulpa cocked his arm back to call strike three, he motioned to touch his elbow while pointing to first base. As Bass’ slider came across the plate, Conforto flagrantly leaned his front elbow towards the plate which led to the ball grazing his elbow pad before hitting the catcher’s glove.
MICHAEL CONFORTO GETS HIT BY A PITCH AND THE METS WIN IT 3-2!!!!! pic.twitter.com/R1QdgiRQJ5
— SNY (@SNYtv) April 8, 2021
After Marlins’ manager Don Mattingly immediately demanded review, the umpires called MLB’s office in Chelsea and they determined that they could only review whether Conforto actually got hit by the ball or not. The official rule states that if the player gets hit by a pitch that’s in the strike zone, it is called a strike. More specifically, Rule 5.05 (b)(2) states:
“(A) The ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, or (B) The batter makes no attempt to avoid being touched by the ball; (2) If the ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a strike, whether or not the batter tries to avoid the ball. If the ball is outside the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a ball if he makes no attempt to avoid being touched.”
Because Conforto’s elbow pad was grazed and Kulpa’s official call was a hit by pitch, they can not overturn it and the Mets go on to win the game. Even the Mets commentary booth disagreed with the game-deciding call, with main commentator Gary Cohen calling strike three before Kulpa.
Michael Conforto sticks his arm out and gets hit by a strike for the walk-off win. Even the Mets broadcasters are upset about it pic.twitter.com/El7JaPHEru
— Jomboy Media (@JomboyMedia) April 8, 2021
After the game, Kulpa admitted to his mistake, saying “That guy was hit by the pitch in the strike zone. I should have called him out.” In a separate press conference post-game, Conforto spoke to the media about the incident, saying that was not how he wanted the game to end.
Michael Conforto discusses the final play of the game:
"A win's a win, it's over, but I'd like to use the bat next time for sure" pic.twitter.com/V4PWz241ax
— SNY (@SNYtv) April 8, 2021
The Mets are now 2-2 and have to wait until Saturday to let Jacob DeGrom take the hill for game two of the three game series.