NEW YORK -- The more Mets fans hate Chase Utley, the more reason he gives them to.After answering a 99-mph retaliation pitch behind his back from Noah Syndergaard -- and a borough full of boo-birds fixated on his every move -- with a grand slam, a solo homer and five
NEW YORK -- The more Mets fans hate Chase Utley, the more reason he gives them to.
After answering a 99-mph retaliation pitch behind his back from Noah Syndergaard -- and a borough full of boo-birds fixated on his every move -- with a grand slam, a solo homer and five RBIs in the Dodgers' 9-1 win Saturday night, Utley didn't deny that playing the villain seems to suit his game.
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"I think a loud, energizing environment gets the best out of you," said Utley. "I'm fine with it. We had a lot of games in Philadelphia in the playoffs and the crowds were into it. It gets the adrenaline going a little bit and helps you dig down deeper."
Other than taking the next three pitches from Logan Verrett for strikes, Utley showed no outward reaction when Syndergaard was immediately ejected after buzzing him in the third inning, apparently delayed payback for Utley's slide last postseason that broke the leg of then-Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada.
Syndergaard -- who had thrown 24 strikes and nine balls to that point -- insisted after the game that the pitch that sailed four feet out of the strike zone "just got away from me." He was immediately ejected by Minor League callup umpire Adam Hamari. Utley was asked if he thought the pitch was intentional.
"That's a good question. Possibly, but I understand it," he said.
He was also asked, with one game left in the season series, if he thought there was a chance of more bad blood on Sunday, when Clayton Kershaw opposes Bartolo Colon.
"Possibly, yeah," he said.
And he was asked, with the teams having already played five games this year with no incident, why it would happen Saturday night.
"You never know, baseball is a crazy game and you never know what to expect," he said.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said that a discussion took place with umpires before Friday night's series opener regarding the lingering animosity.
"We talked prior to the series with the umpires and we all agreed it was behind us and we'd go out and play baseball and may the best team win," said Roberts. "It wasn't an official warning. We just talked about it. Adam Hamari went with his gut and professional opinion. The umpire has the right if he feels there's intent to throw at somebody, he can eject him. You've got a guy with plus command and a pitch goes a foot and a half behind a left-handed hitter, there's intent."
Roberts praised Utley's character, as well as starting pitcher Kenta Maeda's toughness for pitching four scoreless innings after taking a line drive off his pitching hand, which swelled considerably.
"Chase was and has been tremendous, and not only what he does in the clubhouse, but obviously under these circumstance to perform and put us on his shoulders not only speaks to him as a player, but his character, and for me there's no one better," Roberts said. "To hit the homer to break the ice and tension and give us a lead and to hit a grand slam -- what he's done for us is special."
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.