The mob here craved revenge. With every break in the action, with every fiber of their being, the largest crowd that has ever gathered for a Mets game at Citi Field clamored for their pound of flesh.
“We want Utley!” they roared Monday night, their hatred for longtime foil Chase Utley rising like a mushroom cloud over Queens. Only ancient Romans could muster such blood lust.
The Mets could have given in to temptation, of course. They could have let Game 3 of the National League Division Series turn into Fight Night at Citi Field. The fans would have loved that, too, their thirst for eye-for-an-eye frontier justice quenched with a plunking.
But because they resisted, because they kept their eyes trained on the real prize before them, the Mets offered up the best payback of all, a 13-7 thrashing that gave the Mets a 2-1 lead in the National League Division Series, pushing the Dodgers to the brink of elimination.
A surge of electricity pulsed through the ballpark before the game when a hobbled Ruben Tejada limped to the first-base line with the aid of a cane. It had been two days since Utley’s takeout shattered his right leg. The Mets used their fallen teammate as a rallying point.
“I think everybody feels badly for Ruben, but what’s done is done,” David Wright said. “The only thing we can do now in support of Ruben is going out there and getting back the way that we know how to get back, and that’s winning two games here.”
Now, the Mets are halfway to that goal, thanks to an onslaught that chased starter Brett Anderson after three innings and covered for a shaky Matt Harvey.
Yoenis Cespedes crushed a three-run homer that landed in the upper deck in leftfield, 431 feet away from the plate. Travis d'Arnaud knocked in three runs, including a two-run shot, his bat coming alive after an 0-for-7 start to the NLDS. Curtis Granderson equaled a franchise postseason record with five RBIs, all of them coming behind a pair of wall-crashing doubles.
The Mets’ 13 runs set a franchise postseason record.
Now, the Dodgers send their ace Clayton Kershaw to the mound Tuesday night in Game 4, leaving the lefty to prop up a $270- million juggernaut that has come to the brink of turning into a pumpkin. Kershaw will be opposed by Steven Matz, the Ward Melville product who was just a fan when the Mets last hosted a postseason game in 2006.
During introductions before the first pitch, the fans erupted when Utley was shown on the video board. For good measure, the public address announcer paused for a few extra beats, opening the door for more venom to flow from the stands. They waved orange towels and enjoyed an outburst.
Harvey, in his first playoff start, allowed three runs (two earned) and struck out seven, but got the victory. The righthander fell into a 3-0 hole in the second.
Justin Turner, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford lashed three straight singles, all on fastballs, to load the bases. Yasmani Grandal followed by ripping a Harvey slider just past the reach of diving first baseman Lucas Duda for a two-run single.
Granderson compounded matters with an errant throw that allowed Crawford to score from first.
But the Mets scored 10 unanswered runs. By the time Harvey was pinch hit for in the fifth, departing after 97 pitches, the crowd of 44,276 had shifted its focus from victory to revenge.
“We want Utley!” they chanted, as Cespedes rounded the bases. “We want Utley,” they screamed during a Dodgers challenge in the seventh. “We want Utley,” they cheered after Granderson’s second double.
Utley did not start. The fans never got him. But they got something much better, much sweeter, much more satisfying.
After nine long years of angst, of free-agent signings gone bad, of crippling losses absorbed with no end in sight, the Mets stand one win away from playing in the NLCS.