Alcides Escobar has a habit of swinging on the first pitch. It helped him lay down maybe the best ALCS for a leadoff hitter ever, and he even led off the World Series with a first-pitch, inside-the-park home run on Tuesday. Last night in Game 3, the first pitch went quite different, as Noah Syndergaard sent a 98 mph fastball whistling straight at Escobar’s dome.

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After the game, Syndergaard claimed that he wasn’t trying to hit Escobar per se, just send a message:

“I mean, I certainly wasn’t trying to hit the guy, that’s for sure. I just didn’t want him getting too comfortable.”

But that said, in the very next sentence he challenged any upset Royals players to come see him on the mound and settle it:

“If they have a problem with me throwing inside, then they can meet me 60 feet, 6 inches away. I’ve got no problem with that.”

After this maybe-maybe-not chin music, Syndergaard looked the most frazzled. He allowed the Royals to score three runs by the second, and the Mets’s bullpen was already active before the inning was up. But he stabilized, and kept the Royals quiet while his team’s bats finally woke up.

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David Wright and Curtis Granderson each hit two-run homers, and Wright added two more RBIs in the sixth. Critically, they got to Kansas City’s previously unassailable bullpen and hung four up on Franklin Morales.

Late in the sixth, Syndergaard faced Alex Rios with the bases loaded, and got him to ground out on a broken-bat slider. The Royals are a historic contact team, so even though Syndergaard can throw 100+ mph fastballs, he got his most crucial out with a slider. Travis d’Arnaud confirmed that this was by design, and it kept the Mets alive. If they win tonight, they’ll tie it up and ensure it goes back to Kansas City for at least a Game 6.

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Contact the author at patrick@deadspin.com or @patrickredford.