KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The Mets stood on their foul line Sunday night, facing the mammoth, crown-shaped scoreboard that looms over Kauffman Stadium, forced to relive the horrors of the World Series.
The highlights showed the Royals jumping for joy last fall while the Mets were portrayed in various states of disarray. Then one by one, in pregame introductions, the Royals took their bows.
All the while, the Mets fidgeted, and chatted, and swayed back and forth. They adjusted their caps and belts, endlessly. For all the talk of turning the page on 2015, the Mets couldn’t escape it. That time warp extended to the playing field, where the Royals prevailed, 4-3, by rebuffing a late charge by the Mets.
“All the games to me are the same,” said Yoenis Cespedes, who through a translator, rejected unflattering comparisons to the World Series.
The parallels, however, were undeniable.
Cespedes dropped an easy fly ball in the first inning, leading to a costly unearned run, then struck out to end the game with the tying run 90 feet away.
Matt Harvey allowed four runs (three earned) and eight hits in 5 2⁄3 innings. The righthander clearly lacked his best stuff. His rhythm also proved elusive, and the Royals pounced.
“It’s not the way I wanted to start the season,” said Harvey, who struck out just two, just as he did in Game 1 of the World Series, equaling a career low.
Trailing 4-0 in the eighth, the Mets sliced the deficit to one with nothing more than two soft hits, two walks and a groundout. But just as he did during the World Series, Royals closer Wade Davis slammed the door in the ninth.
In his three appearances last fall, Davis did not allow a run, a stinginess that carried over to Opening Night. Despite allowing a leadoff walk and a one-out single by Curtis Granderson that put the tying run on third base, Davis snuffed out the rally.
Cespedes waved at a 94-mph fastball to end it, though it was David Wright who lamented an opportunity missed, striking out looking just before Cespedes. When Davis hung a cutter over the plate, Wright fouled it back, a common theme for the Mets.
“That was the action pitch,” Wright said on a night in which Royals starter Edinson Volquez allowed two hits in six shutout innings.
The Royals again displayed a sixth sense for prevailing in close games. Their superb defense played a role. Third baseman Mike Moustakas, first baseman Eric Hosmer and catcher Salvador Perez made plays to stifle rallies.
But they also tormented the Mets in other ways. Hosmer got rewarded for a hit when he bunted against the shift and Omar Infante legged out an infield single, taking advantage of a weak throw by Wright.
Michael Conforto walked twice and went 2-for-2, including a soft single during the eighth-inning rally against an erratic Joakim Soria. Lucas Duda had a two-run single that inning and Neil Walker ground ed out to knock in another run.
But the uprising came too late for the Mets, who trailed 4-0 because the first seven innings proved to be little more than a re-enactment of the Fall Classic.
“The ball just fell,” said Cespedes, whose first-inning error set the tone. “I’m human.”
Harvey stalked off the mound in the sixth, his head down, his glove in his throwing hand, his team trailing 3-0. He already had endured a turbulent week. He was diagnosed with a bladder infection, was mocked mercilessly in public for the condition, then rebelled by boycotting the media.
Not long before first pitch, the Royals raised their banner, a reminder of just how close the Mets had come to doing the same. Tomorrow, the Royals will distribute their championship rings.
“They’re the champs,” Wright said. “They should celebrate it.”