One day after injecting the World Series with a hint of bad blood -- throwing a 98-mph heater that sent Alcides Escobar to his backside and left the Royals fuming -- Mets flamethrower Noah Syndergaard did not back down. He told Newsday before Game 4 that he has no regrets about the message he sent and how he sent it.
"They can be [ticked] off all they want," Syndergaard said, shaking his head.
Mets manager Terry Collins said Saturday that the 23-year-old might have been better served by toning down the rhetoric after Game 3. But Syndergaard deviated from custom. Instead of saying that the pitch got away from him -- the standard retort from pitchers -- he declared that he had come up with the idea before the game.
If the Royals have a problem with it, the 6-6, 240-pound Syndergaard invited them to "meet me 60 feet, 6 inches away" on the pitcher's mound.
The Royals made it clear that they were not pleased. Alex Rios called the pitch "unprofessional." Escobar thought the pitch was thrown at his head. He reiterated the stance before Game 4.
"This guy after the game, saying [he's] sending a message and blah, blah blah," said Escobar, who has punished the Mets by jumping on first pitches and singled on Steven Matz's fourth pitch to begin Game 4 Saturday night. "He talks too much. I say don't worry about it, we'll send a message back, don't worry."
After Game 3, Syndergaard said he had planned to throw inside to start the game, mostly to make the Royals less comfortable in the batter's box after they beat up Matt Harvey and Jacob deGrom in Games 1 and 2. Escobar said he was surprised that Syndergaard admitted it.
"That's a stupid comment right there," Escobar said. "This is a World Series game."
Replays showed the pitch, which went to the backstop, sailed well high but over the inner portion of the plate. Still, Escobar said he took exception to a fastball that he believes was too close for comfort.
"You can it throw outside, you can throw down to my leg, but you don't need to throw to my head," he said. "In that situation, if you want to throw a bad pitch, throw it outside. But don't throw to my head."
Syndergaard said he did not intend to hit Escobar but acknowledged that the fastball was indeed a purpose pitch.
The day before Game 3, Syndergaard said he had "a few tricks up my sleeve" to combat Escobar's tendency to ambush pitchers.
On social media, the high heat opened another round of talk about the proper way to pitch inside. Collins said the furor was "blown out of proportion," but he lamented Syndergaard's outspokenness on the issue because it conceivably could give the Royals added motivation.
"He's 23," Collins said. "He got caught up in the moment, I guess."
A day after throwing the pitch, Syndergaard did not sound as if he had just gotten carried away.
Asked if he had any second thoughts about being so forward in his postgame comments, he responded simply: "No."
Syndergaard said he was merely pitching inside.
"It's as simple as that," he told Newsday. "That's all I can add to it."
Matt Harvey said the episode was somewhat out of character for Syndergaard, who typically is more reserved. He suggested that the adrenaline from the start might have spilled into Syndergaard's 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."
Both managers tried to defuse the situation, with Collins insisting that the outcry has become typical for pitches that are up and in.
"Any time there's a pitch up around somebody's head, everybody gets excited," he 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."
Royals manager Ned Yost said he expected no "carry-over" into Game 4, though he took exception to the location of the pitch.
"I didn't expect him to throw a strike, but I didn't expect him to throw it under his chin, either," Yost said. "But we've got a few tricks up our sleeves, too. Let's go with that."
With Erik Boland