The last of the 40,122 fans at Citi Field were still settling into their seats by the time Mets manager Terry Collins first turned to the bullpen Tuesday night. With Bartolo Colon forced to leave after Whit Merrifield led off the game by ripping a liner off the pitcher's right thumb, Hansel Robles jogged to the mound.
Robles and the rest of the Mets' bullpen held strong for 8 2/3 innings, holding Kansas City to six hits to help New York capture the series opener, 2-1. Shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera and center fielder Yoenis Cespedes contributed with solo homers in the first and fourth, respectively.
"Those are the kinds of games that I really believe you should grow from," Collins said. "Our bullpen had a tough weekend, and it came back tonight, certainly, in an unexpected situation. ... Everybody that came in the game pitched great.
X-Rays on Colon's thumb came back negative.
Kansas City starter Ian Kennedy was pulled after just four innings, leaving the Royals' bullpen to duel with the Mets' relievers. The two homers Kennedy allowed, however, proved to be all the offense New York needed. K.C. scored on a fifth-inning single from Brett Eibner, but couldn't muster any more offense.
"He wasn't exceptionally sharp for me," Royals manager Ned Yost said of Kennedy. "He had a lot of flyball outs ... and it was one of those situations where the ball was carrying good tonight."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Robles to the rescue: The right-hander filled in admirably for Colon, allowing just one earned run over a career-high 3 2/3 innings. He surrendered five hits and helped bridge the gap to the rest of the bullpen while keeping the Mets' slim lead intact. His longest previous outing came on Aug. 15, 2015, when he threw three innings in a 5-3 loss to the Pirates.
"Robles pitched his heart out today," catcher Travis d'Arnaud said. "He went into the fifth inning. When was the last time he threw that many pitches?"
Just missed: After Eibner plated the Royals' lone run with a single in the fifth, Kendrys Morales came in to pinch-hit, putting an early end to Kennedy's outing. The move almost paid off as Morales came up a few feet short of hitting a three-run home run. Instead, his fly ball to right advanced Cheslor Cuthbert to third, where he was stranded after Merrifield struck out and Alcides Escobar grounded out.
"I thought we'd take a shot there and see if we could put some runs on the board there," Yost said. "It just didn't work."
Riding solo: The Mets didn't turn in their strongest offensive showing, but rode solo homers from Cabrera (seventh) and Cespedes (18th) to victory. Cabrera's shot barely slipped over the orange marker lining the left-field fence, while Cespedes deposited his shot 410 feet to center field, according to Statcast™.
QUOTABLE "It was amazing that Robles got through four like that. I've never seen him go more than two before. You can't really worry about going two when someone else has already set the bar with four." -- Erik Goeddel, who pitched two shutout innings
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Colon left the game after throwing four pitches, the least in Mets history. John Maine's five-pitch start in 2010 previously held that distinction.
WHAT'S NEXT Royals:Danny Duffy (2-1, 3.17 ERA) will get the start for the Royals in Wednesday's series finale at 12:10 p.m. CT. Since Duffy joined the rotation on May 15, opposing hitters are batting just .221 against him, while he's posted a 3.25 ERA and an even 1.00 WHIP.
Mets: Right-hander Noah Syndergaard (7-2, 1.91 ERA) takes the ball for the Mets a day later than expected against the Royals at 1:10 p.m. ET on Wednesday. Collins pushed the big righty back a day after he threw a season-high 115 pitches in 8 1/3 innings last Wednesday to help the Mets capture an 11-2 win.