NEW YORK -- Liquid fire formed in Yoenis Cespedes' eyes as he stared down Tom Koehler in the first inning of Tuesday's 9-3 Mets loss to the Marlins. Koehler's had just zipped a first-pitch fastball off the midsection of the game's hottest hitter, who stared down the Marlins' pitcher as he took several steps toward first base. Cespedes then tossed away his bat and stared at Koehler a second time, before softening his gaze into a bemused smile.
The Mets, manager Terry Collins said, took notice.
"I think Cespedes being hit bothered us a little bit," he said. "We'll answer it in our due time."
Enter another subplot, then, into the stretch run full of them. The Mets have just one game remaining against the Marlins on Wednesday, though Major League teams often have long memories that last beyond single seasons. Within their own clubhouse, there was little doubt that Koehler's fastball was intentional, even if the Marlins' pitcher denied as much after the game.
"I was trying to pitch him inside," Koehler said. "I've been throwing curveballs down in the zone, he's hit them hard. I've thrown him fastballs away, he's hit them hard. So, I was trying to go in for a strike or for effect. It got away a little bit."
It's little secret that Cespedes had been terrorizing National League pitching for more than a month, coming into Tuesday's game with a .323 average to go along with his league-best 17 home runs and .805 slugging percentage since Aug. 12. In Monday's opener, Cespedes homered, staring that ball down in much the same way he did Koehler.
But for all the Mets' postgame bluster, their own starting pitcher, Jacob deGrom, never retaliated in his five innings on the mound. The only Met to make a stir was reliever Erik Goeddel, who threw behind Koehler -- prompting a warning issued to both benches -- in the seventh before striking him out on three successive pitches.
"I knew he got hit," deGrom said. "There wasn't really a time where …"
DeGrom cut himself off before ending the discussion: "I knew what happened," he said.