In a scene that seemed inevitable since October, New York Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard was ejected Saturday night for throwing a 99 mph fastball behind Chase Utley of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Utley is playing at Citi Field this weekend for the first time since his late takeout slide in last year’s playoffs broke the right leg of then-Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada.
The Mets – and their fans – were incensed by the aggressive slide, which led to a change in baseball rules this season designed to protect infielders. But the team had not attempted to retaliate until Saturday night.
With one out and nobody on in the third inning of a scoreless game, Syndergaard’s first pitch to Utley sailed behind the second baseman’s back by a considerable margin.
Plate umpire Adam Hamari immediately ejected Syndergaard, prompting irate Mets manager Terry Collins to come storming out of the dugout. Collins also was ejected after screaming at Hamari and pointing in his face during an animated argument. The manager was finally escorted back toward the New York dugout by another umpire.
After the pitch, Utley raised one hand slightly in the direction of the Dodgers’ bench as if to tell his teammates to remain calm. Nobody besides Collins came onto the field, and Utley headed back toward the bench during the delay.
After waiting near the mound with teammates for some time, Syndergaard walked calmly to the Mets’ dugout without showing any emotion as the crowd cheered him.
Logan Verrett entered to pitch for the Mets and, with a vocal contingent of fans urging him to hit Utley with a pitch, eventually threw a called third strike past him. But then Utley homered on Verrett’s first pitch of the sixth to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead, his 37th career homer against the Mets.
Utley then came back to hit his sixth career slam off Hansel Robles in the seventh, giving Los Angeles a 6-0 cushion with his 38th career homer against the Mets.
For his slide, Utley was given a two-game suspension by Major League Baseball that was later dropped. While appealing the original penalty, he didn’t play in Games 3 and 4 of last year’s NL Division Series between the Mets and Dodgers at Citi Field. He flied out as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning of the decisive Game 5 at Dodger Stadium, then played all four games without incident from May 9-12 when the teams split a series in Los Angeles.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Friday that Utley had put last year’s ruckus behind him. During the offseason, MLB banned takeout slides in what some call the Utley Rule.
“The way he plays the game is the way he’s always played the game,” Roberts said. “There are slides like that every single night that don’t have that result. I know he feels bad.”
In the series opener Friday night, Utley was greeted with loud jeers and derisive chants at Citi Field. He had four RBIs, including a three-run double that tied the score with two outs in the ninth. New York won 6-5 on Curtis Granderson’s leadoff homer in the bottom half.
Tejada was released by the Mets during spring training and signed by the St. Louis Cardinals, who designated him for assignment Saturday.
Dodgers send Urias back to minors
Following a brief major league debut, the Dodgers optioned 19-year-old pitching prospect Julio Urias back to Triple-A Oklahoma City. The team selected the contract of righty Casey Fien from its top farm club. Urias lasted only 2 2/3 innings Friday night. Los Angeles used five relievers in a 6-5 loss to the New York Mets.
Urias, one of baseball’s top prospects, threw 42 of 81 pitches for strikes at Citi Field in a much-anticipated big league debut that lasted 59 minutes. He became the first teenage pitcher to start a game in the majors since Seattle’s Felix Hernandez in 2005. The left-hander gave up three runs, five hits and four walks while striking out three. He was on the hook for a loss until Los Angeles rallied for four runs in the ninth to tie the score.
Clearing the bases
The Blue Jays placed SS Troy Tulowitzki on the 15-day disabled list with a right quad injury. … Texas righty Yu Darvish was activated from the disabled list to make his first major league start in nearly 22 months. … The Mets found help at first base following Lucas Duda’s injury (lower back), acquiring veteran James Loney from the Padres for cash. Loney has spent this season playing for Triple-A El Paso.
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