Recap: Santana and the sun help Royals top Mets again
NEW YORK (AP) Things are going so well for the Kansas City Royals these days they have even figured out how to turn the sun in their favor.
And on the road.
The Royals beat the New York Mets 6-2 on a sun-splashed Sunday, winning for the 11th time in 12 games and finishing a franchise-best 8-1 road trip.
Ervin Santana scattered five hits and allowed one run in six innings, and Kansas City was helped by a pair of flyballs that Mets right fielder Marlon Byrd lost in the glare. Both came during a three-run fifth, with one falling for a double and the other glancing off his glove for an error.
"The sign of a good team is when there is mistakes made on the field, we take advantage," said third baseman Mike Moustakas, who hit a solo homer. "That sun out there in right field was terrible. You saw outfielders on both teams struggling.
"Luckily we didn't have as many flyballs hit over there."
The Royals posted their best mark ever on a trip of at least nine games. They pulled out this series with two wins after losing the opener on Friday night on Eric Young Jr.'s game-ending homer in the 11th inning.
"It was a tough loss the first night," outfielder Alex Gordon said. "A good team bounces back and forgets about it and comes out and wins the next two."
Santana (8-6) has three wins and a no-decision in his past four starts, giving up a total of four earned runs. He is 5-1 since the beginning of June and has posted a 1.27 ERA since the All-Star break.
"Keep the ball down, throw strikes, and that's it," he said. "That's what I know I can do."
Zack Wheeler (4-2) lost for the first time in six starts. He gave up four runs - three earned - and issued five walks, three to George Kottaras, in five innings. The light-hitting catcher was the only Royals player who batted not to have a hit. He also was struck by a pitch in going 0 for 1.
Wheeler wasn't nearly as sharp as in his previous start Tuesday at Miami when he carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning, but the rookie right-hander was hurt by the defense behind him and behind the plate by catcher John Buck.
"It's too bad we couldn't hit the ball that high today and get their right fielder involved," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "Had it been a cloudy day, it's 1-1."
Wheeler fell behind 1-0 in the fourth inning on Moustakas' 10th homer, and the Royals batted around in the fifth.
The trouble started right away when David Lough lofted a fly ball that Byrd got under but couldn't catch as he battled the sun. Lough didn't run hard out of the box, yet still made it to second base with a double.
Miguel Tejada bunted him to third, but Lough was forced to leave the game because of right quadriceps tightness. With Eric Hosmer batting, pinch-runner Jarrod Dyson scored on the first of Wheeler's two wild pitches in the inning to make it 2-0.
Hosmer walked, and Gordon lofted a fly to deep right field that Byrd tracked to the fence. He again struggled with the sun, and the ball hit his mitt and fell to the ground, sending Gordon to second on the error.
"It was bad position on my part out there," Byrd said. "I chalk it up to, 'I need to get better with sun balls.' I can't misplay two balls in a game like that.
"It's tough knowing you're the reason you lost the game. Somewhere, somehow I need to figure out a way to catch those."
Lorenzo Cain then lined a shot to right that Byrd pulled up on and bobbled. Hosmer, who had held up, nearly got lapped by the speedy Gordon as both runners scored almost side by side to give the Royals a 4-0 lead.
Wheeler threw another wild pitch, and Buck was charged with a passed ball as Kansas City reloaded the bases. Wheeler struck out Santana looking to end the inning.
"Picking it up and getting past stuff in the field is something I've always prided myself in doing," Wheeler said. "It didn't happen today."
The Mets got one run back in the bottom half on Young's RBI single. However, Byrd's tough day continued when he struck out with the bases loaded.
Kansas City tacked on two runs in the sixth after Gonzalez Germen relieved Wheeler. Hosmer's RBI single drove in Dyson, who had led off with a double. Gordon singled to make it 6-1.
Santana was left in to take his at-bat in the seventh inning in a sacrifice situation. Santana's bunt found a hole between the mound and first base, giving him his fourth major league hit in 25 career at-bats. He hadn't had a hit since 2011.
Buck, awaiting the imminent birth of his son, had an RBI single in the eighth to make it 6-2.
NOTES: Royals manager Ned Yost said Lough is playing at 80-85 percent. He won't play the next two games. ... New York 2B Daniel Murphy moved back into his usual No. 2 spot after hitting No. 5 the previous two days. He also lost a ball in the sun. ... The Royals placed All-Star C Salvador Perez on the seven-day concussion disabled list. He was struck in the mask by a foul ball Saturday. Brett Hayes was recalled from Triple-A Omaha. RHP Wade Davis was placed on the family emergency list. LHP Will Smith was brought up from Omaha.