NEW YORK -- Nearly as long as the history of big league purpose pitches is the history of players dismissing them as balls that just "slipped." That, more than anything, was what made Noah Syndergaard's brushback of Alcides Escobar during the Mets' 9-3 win against the Royals on Friday night in World Series Game 3 so unique: He not only admitted it, but he seemed to revel in it.
A day later, Mets manager Terry Collins said he wished his rookie starter would have handled his postgame news conference differently, even if he has no desire to "muzzle anyone."
"I think his comments indicated that he was throwing a pitch for a competitive purpose, not with an intention to hit anyone," Commissioner Rob Manfred said Saturday about Syndergaard's first pitch. "You know, good hard baseball. It doesn't concern me."
Asked if he was contemplating discipline, Manfred said, simply, "No."
Though Syndergaard's first-pitch fastball did not hit Escobar, its context transformed it into a different animal. A day earlier, when asked about Escobar's success swinging at the first pitch of ballgames, Syndergaard grinned that he had "a few tricks up my sleeve." Afterward, Syndergaard admitted that he and catcher Travis d'Arnaud explicitly discussed buzzing Escobar with a first-pitch fastball.
Further inflaming the situation were the postgame comments of Escobar and other Royals players, who called Syndergaard's pitch dangerous and unprofessional and so many other things. The irony was not lost on Collins, who said he was "aware" of the Royals' recent history of hitting players such as the Blue Jays' Josh Donaldson and the A's Brett Lawrie. The latter led to a benches-clearing incident earlier this year.
"Anytime there's a pitch up around somebody's head, everybody gets excited," Collins said. "Our guys do the same thing. It's all about emotions. It's all about defending a teammate. Everything's involved. I'm not surprised that they're upset by it, but tonight's another night."
Perhaps, Mets teammate Matt Harvey said, the adrenaline that Syndergaard brought to Game 3 spilled over into his postgame news conference.
"Obviously, everybody kind of saw a different side of him," Harvey said. "Usually he's a little bit more reserved and calm. But I think it's a lot of the situation, too. I think he's pretty fired up. He was fired up about the win last night. He went out there and did his job. And we're all proud of him for that."
Asked about potential retaliation, Collins said he expected none, drawing a parallel to the relative peace following Chase Utley's takeout slide that injured Ruben Tejada during National League Division Series Game 2. Collins' eyes did grow wide when he learned that the Mets and Royals will face each other next Opening Day, unaware of that fact until Saturday. And Royals manager Ned Yost fanned the flames in the hours prior to World Series Game 4, saying: "We've got a few tricks up our sleeve, too."
Still, it's not something Collins planned on fretting over in advance of Game 4.
"I was as surprised as anybody that that's something [Syndergaard] planned on doing, but it's over," Collins said. "The one thing that you try to make sure you don't do is give them a reason to want to stomp on your neck. I just think he did what he thought he had to do, and we'll move on."