KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Amid the ocean that is the Mets’ difficult August-into-September schedule — filled with genuine postseason contenders, including several series with first-place teams — this weekend at Kauffman Stadium is an island.
Four years after beating the Mets in the World Series, the rebuilding Royals are one of the worst teams in baseball. With a bottom-five record and an offense to match (and a pitching staff almost as bad), Kansas City represents a brief reprieve for the Mets, who just left Atlanta and have a long homestand against the Indians, Braves and Cubs looming.
Things did not go swimmingly Friday. Instead, the Mets looked as if they needed a floatie, coming out flat in a 4-1 loss to the Royals. With their season-reviving hot streak seemingly over, the Mets have been treading water for a week-plus, going 3-4 in their past seven games. They are two games out of a National League wild-card spot.
“Once again, we couldn’t get that big hit,” said J.D. Davis, who left the game with a tight right calf. “For over two weeks now, we’ve been getting that big hit, and during this road trip here and there, we haven’t. That’s just baseball.”
A night after hammering out a season-high 23 hits in Atlanta, the Mets were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base.
A close game became less so when the Royals scored twice against Brad Brach and Edwin Diaz in the eighth. Brach loaded the bases with none out, so Mickey Callaway called on Diaz, the Mets’ struggling closer.
Diaz allowed two runs to score — one on a bases-loaded walk of Brett Phillips, called up Friday — but rebounded after Ryan O’Hearn’s long fly ball down the rightfield line was ruled foul (after initially being called a grand slam).
“He did a very good job of getting out of that with two runs,” Callaway said.
Why Diaz (5.44 ERA) in that spot? Callaway said Seth Lugo would pitch only with a lead, and Robert Gsellman (sore right triceps) and Luis Avilan (rest) were unavailable. That left Diaz, Jeurys Familia (6.30 ERA) and Paul Sewald, recalled from Triple-A Syracuse on Friday.
“I had to weigh the struggles of Familia as well,” Callaway said. “And Paul Sewald just got on a plane and got here today, so that’d be a tough position for any of them.”
Noah Syndergaard (8-6, 3.86) held the Royals to two runs in six innings, dominating early and struggling late, largely because of sweat-related grip issues, he said. “I don’t know what it is, but I’m pretty good at sweating,” said Syndergaard, who changed his jersey top at least once and toweled off between innings. “I was sweating like a greased pig.”
Kansas City snapped its 22-inning scoreless streak with a pair of runs in the fifth as rookies Meibrys Viloria and Nicky Lopez hit RBI doubles barely fair down the rightfield and leftfield lines, respectively.
In his first four innings, Syndergaard totaled 43 pitches and two baserunners. In his final two, it was 47 pitches and five baserunners. “I don’t know what it is about humidity,’’ he said, “but we do not get along.”
Royals lefthander Mike Montgomery cruised, allowing a lone unearned run in six innings. That lowered his ERA to 4.63. The Mets put at least one runner on in all of Montgomery’s innings except the fourth but rarely capitalized.
Amed Rosario (2-for-5), the potential go-ahead run, grounded out to shortstop with the bases loaded to end the game.
“We had a bunch [of chances], but I think mine was the biggest one,” Todd Frazier said of his third-inning double- play ball. “I have to come through there.”