NEW YORK – Somewhere in the past few decades, pitching high and inside has become an offense, a violation of baseball etiquette if not the rules.
So when the Mets' Noah Syndergaard opened Game 3 of the World Series with a fastball above the head of Alcides Escobar, sending the leadoff hitter sprawling, the Royals screamed as if the rookie pitcher had turned into a mound version of Dirty Harry.
"You watch guys growing up, Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez, all those epic battles that they had, and I think the time has changed," fellow Mets pitcher Matt Harvey said Saturday. "But this is part of baseball. As a power pitcher you've got to keep guys uncomfortable and off balance."
Syndergaard said ahead of his outing he had "a few tricks" up his sleeve for Escobar, who hit an inside-the-park home run on Harvey's first pitch of Game 1 and flied out on Jacob deGrom's first pitch of Game 2.
"I think it set a tone that, hey, look, we're in this World Series, too, and we're going to get after it," Mets manager Terry Collins said.
Escobar struck out, and the Mets went on to win 9-3. Saturday, Collins said he did not have advance knowledge of the plan and admitted "guys take a huge offense to it."
"But I still think it's got to be part of the game," Collins said.
Escobar thought Syndergaard could have backed him off by throwing low and inside.
"You don't need to throw to my head," he said.
If anything, perhaps Syndergaard was guilty of advertising his intentions. "No one in here is stupid. We know what he said," Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said.