NEW YORK -- A few strides closer to home plate than where he started, a streak of blond hair matted to his forehead, Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard turned his palms upward and stared. Inside, there was "a whirlwind of emotion." Outside, Syndergaard's face was granite, his hands the only evidence
NEW YORK -- A few strides closer to home plate than where he started, a streak of blond hair matted to his forehead, Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard turned his palms upward and stared. Inside, there was "a whirlwind of emotion." Outside, Syndergaard's face was granite, his hands the only evidence of a problem.
By the time Syndergaard stepped off the field, Mets manager Terry Collins had long since bolted past him, craning his neck upward to yammer at home-plate umpire Adam Hamari. Collins was livid; Hamari had ejected Syndergaard without warning in the third inning of the Mets' 9-1 loss to the Dodgers, after a 99-mph fastball whizzed behind second baseman Chase Utley. With Syndergaard and Collins both in the clubhouse, Utley later homered twice to tear open a wound not quite healed in seven months.
Hamari perceived it as vigilante justice in a game that no longer has much patience for that sort of thing.
"I was a little shocked, yeah," Syndergaard said. "But knowing our past with the Dodgers, I can see why they might have thought different."
It was a little more than seven months ago that Utley slid hard into second base during National League Division Series Game 2, fracturing former Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada's leg and knocking him out for the postseason. Before the Mets' first series against the Dodgers earlier this month, Collins spoke to his pitchers about comporting themselves wisely amid public expectation of retaliation.
"We're not going to say to them, 'Don't do anything,' but you've got to understand that we don't need anybody hurt and we don't need anybody retaliated against," Collins said. "I don't need anybody hurt and I don't need anybody suspended for stuff.
"I was just surprised that they reacted so fast."
Hamari's ejection of Syndergaard came immediately, within a breath of Syndergaard's ball hitting the backstop. As a stadium packed with fans for the team's 1986 30th anniversary celebration screamed and chanted -- that would go on all game -- Collins argued with Hamari until he, too, was ejected.
Asked afterward if he believed the pitch was intentional, Utley demurred, calling baseball "a crazy game." Syndergaard spoke only after huddling with a member of the Mets' public relations staff, calling the pitch an accident. His catcher, Rene Rivera, didn't give a direct answer when asked where Syndergaard intended to locate the fastball. But Hamari was resolute in his belief that Syndergaard, who entered the night with the third-best walk rate in the Majors, fired near Utley on purpose.
"The ruling was that he intentionally threw at the batter," crew chief Tom Hallion said through a pool reporter. "With what happened in that situation, we felt the ejection was warranted."
Though Hallion said umpires look at each game in isolation, the crew was aware of Utley's history with the Mets -- as well as Syndergaard's history of throwing inside. Before Game 3 of the World Series, Syndergaard said he had "a few tricks up my sleeve" for Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar, who had burned the Mets for multiple first-pitch hits earlier in the series. Syndergaard proceeded to throw his first pitch near Escobar's head, blustering afterward that, "If they have a problem with me throwing inside, then they can meet me 60 feet, six inches away."
Saturday, Syndergaard was more measured in tone, even as his manager feared a suspension.
"It was a very quick trigger," Syndergaard said of Hamari's ruling. "I was just kind of dumbfounded."
The ejection forced the Mets to cobble together 6 2/3 innings from their bullpen. Right-hander Logan Verrett, who scrambled to begin warming as umpires were still sorting out tensions on the field, entered in immediate relief of Syndergaard, later giving up the first of Utley's two home runs. The second was a grand slam off Hansel Robles, sucking all remaining cheer from the sold-out Citi Field crowd.
Closure? Not on this night. Not with Syndergaard in the clubhouse and Utley dancing around the bases.
"I've said many times that I thought our revenge was beating them in that series last year," Mets third baseman David Wright said. "But we're not robots. Guys feel differently about different topics. As far as closure? For me, it's always been taking care of business by going out there and winning on a baseball field. I think that speaks volumes."
Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo and Facebook, and listen to his podcast.