NEW YORK (AP) — With fans at Citi Field for the first time in 557 days, Michael Conforto and the New York Mets got some serious home cooking.
Even the umpire knew it.
Jeff McNeil launched a tying homer in the ninth inning on his 29th birthday and the Mets were handed the winning run on a disputed hit by pitch for a bizarre 3-2 victory over Miami in their home opener Thursday.
“We caught a little break,” McNeil said.
With the bases loaded and one out, a scuffling Conforto stuck out his right elbow pad just enough to get it grazed by a 1-2 breaking ball from Marlins closer Anthony Bass that appeared to be in the strike zone.
Plate umpire and crew chief Ron Kulpa at first signaled strike, then quickly ruled Conforto was hit by the pitch. Conforto headed to first base as Luis Guillorme scored and the Mets celebrated a fortuitous comeback win.
“That one there, makes a clear move to get hit, try to get hit. But for me I guess the tough part is, you can’t really tell on the replay if it hits him or not,” Miami manager Don Mattingly said. “And I guess the toughest part is, it’s just a strike. Kind of that simple. You would think all the replay we do, that you could say that ball’s a strike. I wonder what happens when they put the automated strike zone in?”
Mattingly and his players argued with Kulpa before the umps went to a replay review that lasted 58 seconds. The call was upheld.
“It’s one of those plays where it looked like the guy was hit,” Kulpa told a pool reporter. “The guy was hit by the pitch in the strike zone. I should have called him out.”
According to baseball rules, if a batter is plunked by a pitch in the strike zone, it’s a strike and not a hit by pitch.
According to replay regulations, though, whether the pitch was in the strike…