Chase Utley homers twice after Noah Syndergaard ejected for pitch

ByAdam Rubin ESPN logo
Sunday, May 29, 2016

NEW YORK -- Noah Syndergaard denied purposely whizzing a 99 mph fastball behind Chase Utleyas payback for the second baseman's slide during the 2015 National League Division Series.

Regardless of his intent, Syndergaard was ejected in the third inning. And Utley proceeded to further cement his place as a villain to Mets fans, producing two homers and five RBIs as the Los Angeles Dodgers beat New York9-1on Saturday night at Citi Field.

"It was a very quick trigger," Syndergaard said of the ejection, maintaining that the pitch had no purpose. "I was just kind of dumbfounded. I've never been thrown out of a game before, so it was just kind of a whirlwind of emotions. It kind of rattled me a little bit, the reason I got thrown out. I was kind of at a loss for words."

Asked if he thought the pitch was intentional, Utley said, "Possibly, but I understand it."

Utley added that he was fine with a purpose pitch as long as it didn't injure anyone.

Utley became a villain among Mets fans following his slide in Game 2 of the NLDS last October at Dodger Stadium that fractured the right leg of then-New York shortstop Ruben Tejada. That prompted Major League Baseball and the players' association to change the rule regarding sliding during the offseason. Slides now must begin before reaching the base.

Still, the Mets took no retribution against the Dodgers during the remainder of that postseason series, as well as during a four-game set earlier this month at Dodger Stadium.

Mets manager Terry Collins, who was also ejected Saturday, said he spoke with his team before the May 9-12 series at Dodger Stadium. During the team meeting, he did not instruct his players to avoid retaliation. But he also advised them not to do anything that would hurt or suspend a Mets player.

Collins said he did not give his players a similar admonition before this series. He added that this weekend's umpiring crew did not appear to have a clue about a history between the Mets and Dodgers when this series began.

"Last night at home plate, the umpires had no idea about anything," Collins said. "So to all of a sudden assume that was intentional -- whether it was or not -- with no damage done, I was a little surprised by it."

Collins also said he is concerned about Syndergaard receiving a suspension. He lamented players no longer being allowed to police their activities without intervention.

"I'm not going to sit here and say Noah threw at him," Collins said. "I'm not going to do that. But there was a time in this game where you had a shot.

"Nothing happened. The ball went to the backstop. So that was kind of my argument."

Syndergaard has been known to be the Mets' enforcer. Trying to make the Kansas City Royals less comfortable in the batter's box last season, he whizzed the first pitch of Game 3 of the World Series past Alcides Escobar and to the backstop. When the Royals objected, Syndergaard noted that he was 60 feet, six inches away if any Kansas City players wanted to meet him on the mound.

Asked if he thought Syndergaard's pitch on Saturday night was similar to the one to Escobar during the World Series, Collins said, "You can say that."

Crew chief Tom Hallion said the umpires used their judgment in ejecting Syndergaard. Plate umpire Adam Hamari made the decision to toss the pitcher.

"The ruling was that he intentionally threw at the batter," Hallion told a pool reporter. "And with that, we have a judgment of whether we thought it was intentional. And if it was, we can either warn or eject. And with what happened in that situation, we felt the ejection was warranted."

Mets fans' reception toward Utley has been hostile all weekend. The spectators packed Citi Field on Saturday in part because of a pregame ceremony honoring the 1986 championship club.

Utley, a longtime tormenter while with the Philadelphia Phillies, now has 38 career homers against the Mets. Only former Phillies teammate Ryan Howard has more among active players.

"I think a loud, energizing environment gets the best out of you," Utley said. "We had a lot of games with Philadelphia in the playoffs, and the crowds were into it, and it gets your adrenaline going a little bit and makes you dig down deeper."

Syndergaard nonetheless professed his innocence.

"Tonight was a warm one out there," he said. "I got a little sweaty. It just got away from me a little bit.

"[Utley is] a great ballplayer. He's a competitor. He goes out there and plays the game right. It's just one of those pitches that got away."

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