KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Mike Montgomery is settling back into being a starting pitcher again, and the results are showing.
In his first three starts after being acquired from the Chicago Cubs in a trade, Montgomery was 0-2 with a 7.94 ERA. In his last three outings, he is 2-1 and has allowed just two earned runs in 18 innings.
"I feel a lot more comfortable," said Montgomery, a reliever with the Cubs. "I'm finally kind of stretched out to be a starter full length and I felt good tonight."
The hottest team in the majors until this week, the Mets have lost four of five after a 15-1 stretch propelled them into the crowded NL wild-card race. They are two games out of a playoff spot.
New York dropped the series opener at fourth-place Kansas City (44-78) in a rematch of the 2015 World Series won by the Royals in five games.
"For over two weeks now we've been getting that big hit," Mets left fielder J.D. Davis said. "And during this road trip it just seems like here and there we haven't been getting that big hit. That's just baseball."
Montgomery (3-5) pitched six strong innings and allowed just one unearned run on five hits while striking out three and walking two. It was the second consecutive start in which he didn't permit an earned run, following seven smooth innings Saturday in a 7-0 win over Detroit.
"Montgomery did a nice job setting up that cutter in, changeups down and away, just getting ahead of us," Davis said.
The Royals, coming off back-to-back shutout losses to the St. Louis Cardinals, finally snapped a 22-inning scoreless string in the fifth. And it was the bottom three guys in the lineup who came through. After Ryan O'Hearn singled, Meibrys Viloria and Nicky Lopez followed with consecutive RBI doubles off Syndergaard to give Kansas City a 2-1 lead.
"They were huge," Kansas City manager Ned Yost said. "Great at-bat by Phillips, great at-bat by Bubba to get them. We knew it was going to be tight, but you sure want a little breathing room going into the last inning."
Outside of the fifth, Syndergaard (8-6) gave up little else. He threw six innings and allowed just the two runs on five hits with six strikeouts, snapping a streak of six consecutive starts of at least seven innings pitched. But after an RBI single from Michael Conforto in the third, the Mets couldn't generate anything else on offense.
After a brief rain rolled through in the first inning, Syndergaard struggled gripping the ball as the humidity soared.
"Just had to battle the elements out there. I don't know what it is about humidity, but we do not get along," he said.
SOLER ON A TEAR
Jorge Soler extended his torrid streak at the plate. The Royals' designated hitter reached base in all four plate appearances with a double and three walks. Over his last nine games, he is hitting .450 with a .639 on-base percentage and a 1.292 slugging percentage for a 1.930 OPS. In that span, Soler has eight home runs and 12 RBI.
Royals: LHP Danny Duffy (left hamstring strain) threw a two-inning simulated game and looked good, according to Yost. The team will see how Duffy feels on Saturday, then decide whether to have him pitch another simulated game or send him out for a rehab assignment. ... SS Adalberto Mondesi (left shoulder) took batting practice on the field for the first time since getting hurt July 16.
Mets: Davis exited with a calf problem after beating out an infield single in the eighth. ... RHP Robert Gsellman was unavailable due to triceps soreness he's been dealing with for a couple of days. ... OF Brandon Nimmo began a rehab assignment with Class A St. Lucie and went 1 for 3 with a walk and a strikeout as the DH. Nimmo, on the 60-day injured list, hasn't played in the majors since May 20 because of a bulging disk in his neck.
Royals: Designated OF Billy Hamilton for assignment and recalled Phillips from Triple-A Omaha. The speedy Hamilton, who signed a one-year deal with the Royals in the offseason, hit .211 in 93 games and stole 18 bases. Phillips appeared in 36 games for Kansas City in 2018 after coming over in a trade with Milwaukee, but had spent all of this season at Omaha before Friday.
Mets: Selected the contract of RHP Paul Sewald from Triple-A Syracuse and optioned RHP Drew Gagnon to their top farm club. In addition, RHP Tim Peterson was designated for assignment. This is Sewald's third stint in the big leagues this season.
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