Zack Wheeler took the loss for the New York Mets. Right fielder Marlon Byrd took the blame.
Wheeler didn't have no-hit stuff on Sunday, and Byrd misplayed two flyballs against the mistake-free Kansas City Royals, who beat the Mets 6-2 to take the rubber game of the three-game interleague series.
These days the Royals don't need any outside help. After having a nine-game winning streak broken in the series opener, Kansas City bounced back to take the next two and finish an 8-1 road trip - the best in franchise history.
Byrd's gaffes came during a three-run Royals fifth, with one falling for a double and the other glancing off his glove for an error.
"That killed Wheeler's momentum," 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. I knew it was going to be tough in batting practice."
Royals starter Ervin Santana scattered five hits and allowed one run in six innings. He was backed by an 11-hit attack. Every Kansas City player who had an at-bat had at least one hit, except for catcher George Kotarras, who walked three times and was hit by a pitch in an 0 for 1 day.
Mets manager Terry Collins absolved Wheeler for some of the misfortune, but also used the game as a teaching tool for the rookie right-hander.
"He pitched fine. It's one of those days when things happened that wasn't his fault," Collins said. "I told him that in times like that you have to dial it up and make a statement, `This is it boys. I'm putting an end to this right here. This thing is over.' You don't worry about not having anything left at the end of the inning, you just put an end to it."
Santana (8-6) has three wins and a no-decision in his past four starts, giving up 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."
Wheeler (4-2) lost for the first time in six starts. He gave up four runs - three earned - and issued five walks in five innings.
"It's too bad we couldn't hit the ball that high today and get their right fielder involved," Collins said. "Had it been a cloudy day, it's 1-1."
Wheeler wasn't nearly as sharp as in his previous start Tuesday at Miami when he carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning. That combined with the shaky defense did him in. He fell behind 1-0 in the fourth inning on Mike Moustakas' 10th homer, and the Royals batted around in the decisive fifth.
"Wheeler is a nice-looking young pitcher, but I kind of liked the matchup because our hitters are young, good, fastball hitters and Wheeler sports a pretty good fastball," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "We had some great at-bats. We took advantage of opportunities, we pitched well and played great defense."
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