ST. LOUIS Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran made the play of the day Monday without ever stepping foot onto the field.
With the Cardinals leading 5-4 heading to the ninth inning, Beltran was swinging in the batting cage when he noticed on a TV monitor that Mets runner Andres Torres appeared to miss first base on what looked like a leadoff double.
So with the tying run on second and no outs, Beltran raced to the dugout to tell manager Mike Matheny what he saw. The Cardinals appealed the play and first base umpire Dave Rackley agreed, calling Torres out for missing the bag.
"We're saying our MVP of the game today was Carlos Beltran," Matheny said. "I'm watching the play in right field. Carlos came up and said something didn't look right there and he also noticed that the umpire was standing right on top of the bag.
"At that point we had nothing to lose, so absolutely huge play and having the where with all to come over and say let's check it out at least, it was a great play by Carlos and he never saw the field today."
Closer Jason Motte retired the next two batters to finish a big win for the Cardinals, who entered Monday just a half-game up on the Los Angeles Dodgers for the second wild card spot in the National League. And the controversial play was a big reason why.
The Cardinals had extra time to organize the appeal because Torres slid awkwardly into second base and had to be attended to by a trainer and manager Terry Collins. Matheny alerted Molina to tell Motte to appeal the play and after play resumed, the pitcher stepped off the rubber and threw to first.
Rackley, a vacation umpire who has worked less than 100 career games in the big leagues, emphatically punched out Torres at first base. Collins came back onto the field to argue while Torres stood stunned at second base before jogging off.
"I've never seen a call like that, not in the big leagues," Collins said. "I get back to the bench, I've got 10 guys telling me he touched the bag. I don't need to see it.
"We battled very, very hard against a team that's fighting for something big. They're certainly into it. I was very proud of the way we came back and made it a game. We certainly had chances to make it something real special. But that happened."
Torres told reporters after the game that he "definitely" touched the base with his left heel, saying, "I was surprised when I saw the call, you know? What can I say? Nobody's perfect."
Replays appeared to be inconclusive as to whether or not his heal came down on the front left corner of the bag or not as he made the turn and headed for second. Replays did show Rackley right on top of the play and looking right at the bag as Torres ran by.
"It looked exactly like what I saw on the field," Rackley told a pool reporter after watching the replay. "His foot went over the base, his toe hit the dirt and his heel never came down and it just kicked dirt up and he never touched the corner."
Rackley said he wouldn't make a call like that in a situation like that if he wasn't sure that he was correct, adding, "That's what I told Terry. I wouldn't make that up."
Beltran sat out Monday's game with soreness in his knee, but was swinging in the batting cages in case he was needed to pinch-hit in the bottom of the ninth inning. He was watching the play on a TV monitor when he saw the play unfold.
"He was running and looking at the ball and he never looked at the bag," Beltrtan said. "I saw sand coming off around the bag area and just went and told Mike, Let's try to throw to first, it looked like he didn't touch first base.' We had nothing to lose in that particular part of the game. The umpire was looking down so he really got a good look.
"I know Torres is hustling, trying to get to second base. If you touch that base right there and get called out, myself, I would get thrown out of the game if I touched that base and he didn't really react to it, so I guess he didn't touch it."
Crew chief Dale Scott agreed with Beltran's assessment that a lack of argument from Torres was a telling sign, saying, "You would think that if (Torres) touched the bag and he's the potential tying run, he would say something."
Several Mets players and coaches refused to leave the dugout following the game, staying to point and yell at the umpires as they walked off the field.
Mets infielder Daniel Murphy, who popped out to end the game, yelled at the umpires as he walked off the field and had to be restrained by first base coach Tom Goodwin.
"It's frustrating," Murphy said. "Andres gets in there, he has a seven or eight-pitch at-bat against one of the best closers in the league and puts such a good move on it to get to second. To have it taken away, it's frustrating.
"I think our frustration mounted because it feels like in that situation, you just can't be wrong. I know it's a result sort of thing. Like if you try to steal third base with nobody out, it's a result play. If you're out it's a bad play, if you're safe, it's a good one. We felt that you can't make that call if you're wrong."
Asked if he thought the call was wrong, Murphy said, "We had access to video. I'm sure you guys did too, so we know the answer to that."