Syndergaard sets tone with first pitch, lifts Mets in Game 3
By Barry M. Bloom
NEW YORK -- The Mets needed a gutty performance out of rookie Noah Syndergaard on Friday night, and the right-hander gave them everything he had, starting with the first pitch.
Syndergaard dusted Royals leadoff hitter Alcides Escobar to open Game 3 of the World Series at Citi Field, saying after the Mets' 9-3 blowout win that he wasn't trying to hit Escobar, but he was definitely sending a message.
"My first words I said to [catcher Travis d'Arnaud] when we walked in the clubhouse today was, 'How do you feel about high and tight for the first pitch and then a curveball for the second one?'" Syndergaard said. "So I feel like it really made a statement to start the game off that you guys can't dig in and get too aggressive because I'll come in there."
The Royals didn't attempt to retaliate, but there were certainly some discontented players in their clubhouse afterward.
"I didn't like it at all," Escobar said. "To me, that's wrong. I don't think any pitcher should do that. If we do that to them, they're going to say it was on purpose. The only thing I'll say is that it's wrong."
Escobar struck out swinging, the first of six whiffs for Syndergaard in the game. It was nip and tuck for Syndergaard in the first two innings as the Royals jumped out for all three of their runs and six of their seven hits. The Royals had pounded Mets pitching to the tune of 12 runs on 21 hits in winning the first two games at Kauffman Stadium. They struck out only twice each game against young Mets aces Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom.
When told about the tumult among the Royals, in general, and Escobar, in particular, Syndergaard said he was just trying to change the pattern of the way the young Mets starters had approached the Series.
"My intent on that pitch was to make them uncomfortable," he said, "and I feel like I did just that. I know that from the past, I think, every postseason game that Escobar has played in he's swung at the first-pitch fastball, and I didn't think he would want to swing at that one."
Syndergaard, at 23, became the second-youngest Mets pitcher to win a World Series game. Gary Gentry, at 22, is the youngest, beating the Orioles in Game 3 of the 1969 Series, which those upstart and underdog Mets won in five games. And these Mets now trail the Royals, 2-1, in the best-of-seven series with Game 4 at home Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET air time on FOX, 8 p.m. ET game time).
After the second, Syndergaard cruised through the next three innings, and managed to escape a bases-loaded jam to close a scoreless sixth, his last inning of the game after walking two and tossing 104 pitches.
With Alex Rios at the plate, after back-to-back walks to Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon, Mets manager Terry Collins weighed his options and let Syndergaard pitch to Rios, who grounded softly up the middle for the inning's final out.
"I liked his power stuff against Rios," Collins said in explanation. "I liked the way he was throwing. We needed the third out there, and I thought he was just the guy to do it."
Between the multiple jams, Syndergaard retired 12 batters in a row. In doing so, Syndergaard induced the previously contact-happy Royals to swing and miss at 16 pitches. They whiffed on only six Harvey pitches in Game 1 and three from deGrom in Game 2.
"You've got to make adjustments," Collins said. "And throughout the game all of a sudden, Noah started making some adjustments, throwing strikes with his off-speed stuff, where he could get strike one or get them in counts where they're not sure, and making pitches with your fastball. I don't think they could just sit on one pitch from the third inning on. He really settled down."