Jacob deGrom struggles with location, Mets fall into 0-2 hole

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The New York Mets may be down in the World Series, but captain David Wright insisted they are not out.

The Kansas City Royals produced four runs in the fifth inning against ace Jacob deGrom and beat the Mets 7-1 on Wednesday at Kauffman Stadium. That dropped the Amazin’s into an 0-2 series hole.

Teams that win the first two games of a best-of-seven series go on to prevail 83.3 percent of the time, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. It’s worth noting, though, that two of the exceptions are the 1985 Royals and 1986 Mets. Both teams rallied from 0-2 deficits to win the World Series.

“Now’s not the time to hang your head,” Wright said after Wednesday’s loss. “We’ve certainly won four games before, numerous times during the regular season and during the postseason. We’ve just got to get it done at home. We know we’re a good team. We’re playing in the World Series. We don’t need to be reminded that we’re a good team. You just have to look on your shoulder and see that [World Series] patch, and that should give you all the confidence that you need.

“Even if you have a short memory, we just beat an excellent Cubs team four games in a row. Hopefully we can use that home-field advantage to our advantage and go take care of business at home. These guys are playing excellent baseball, so we know it’s going to be a challenge. They took care of their home field. We need to take care of ours.”

DeGrom and the Mets took a 1-0 lead into the bottom of the fifth, when he allowed four runs on five hits in the frame.

Manager Terry Collins had Jonathon Niese warming up during the inning but chose to stick with deGrom. He reasoned that deGrom also had struggled with fastball command during his previous two outings and both times had battled through.

“This guy has been our ace,” Collins said. “You have to stay with him. We've been sitting here raving the last two series that he's gotten himself out of trouble, and you're sitting there saying we [should] go to Niese now. With Bartolo [Colon] down, I just thought it was time we could ride Jake and see if we could get him out of that inning and get him through one more and get better matchups.”

Said deGrom: “I felt like my stuff was good. I just wasn’t locating very well.”

DeGrom generated only three swinging strikes the entire night. Given the Royals’ reputation for making contact, however, that was not unexpected.

“I wasn’t really surprised by it because we kind of knew that going in,” deGrom said. “Early on, my pitch count was staying pretty low because I knew they were going to be attacking early.”

Collins hoped deGrom would throw fewer strikes and make the Royals chase pitches out of the strike zone.

“They did exactly what people said, and they put the ball in play,” Collins said. “I told Jake not everything has to be a strike. You've got to move it around. You've got to change speeds, give them something to look at. If you continue to pound the strike zone, they're going to put it in play, and that's what they did.”

The Royals now have won games started by Mets aces Matt Harvey and deGrom. Collins has suggested the duo may be hitting a wall, given their career-high innings counts.

“We gave Jake some extra rest and he came out and was looking good, and all of a sudden balls were in the middle of the plate,” Collins said. “And I don't know why, but we just aren't making the pitches we need to make. And we can sit here and it's easy to make excuses that, ‘Hey, it's the workload. It's the days off. It's the youth on the big stage.’ I'm not going to say that.”

Wright summed up what has to be done now.

“Regardless, you’ve got to win four games," he said. "Whether you lose the first two, win the first two, you’ve got to win four. This isn’t the ideal position to be in. That’s a given. But regardless, it’s the first one to four.”