Off to strong start, Royals vie for series win over Mets

The Kansas City Royals returned to form Saturday, fewer than 24 hours after enduring their quietest offensive game of the season.

Yet even in defeat, the New York Mets displayed some encouraging traits.

The Royals and Mets will both be looking to stay hot Sunday afternoon, when they meet in the rubber game of a three-game interleague series in New York.

Left-hander Cole Ragans (0-1, 2.60 ERA) is slated to start for the Royals against Mets right-hander Jose Butto (0-0, 1.50).

Six players had two hits apiece Saturday afternoon for the Royals, who held off a late rally to earn an 11-7 victory.

Kansas City finished with 13 hits one day after it was limited to a season-low three hits in a 6-1 loss. The 11-run outburst marked the third time in the last four games the Royals have scored at least 10 runs.

The Royals, who are 10-5 in their best 15-game start since they opened 10-5 in 2016, lead the American League with 84 runs and are tied with the Houston Astros for first with a .433 slugging percentage. Kansas City ranked 10th in the AL in both runs (676) and slugging percentage (.398) last season, when it finished 56-106.

“It’s no surprise,” outfielder Nick Loftin said, referring to the Royals’ early-season outbreak. “I saw these guys day in and day out in spring training do this. This is a high-octane offense. Every time you get us going, it’s scary.”

The Mets’ late comeback bid continued their emergence from a concerning opening homestand in which they went 1-5 and were outscored 26-13. New York is 5-3 since then, a span in which it has outscored the opposition 54-41.

On Saturday, the Mets squandered a 3-1 first-inning lead and trailed 11-4 before scoring three times in the final four frames. New York didn’t score in the ninth, but Joey Wendle and Starling Marte each singled against emerging Royals closer James McArthur, who was working in a non-save situation.

“We could have easily folded,” said first baseman Pete Alonso, who hit a pair of solo homers and had three RBIs. “But we battled, we scored some extra runs and we got their closer in the game. Hopefully, that helps us out (Sunday).”

Ragans didn’t factor into the decision Tuesday, when he allowed three runs over five innings in the Royals’ 4-3, 10-inning win over the Houston Astros. He won his lone previous appearance against the Mets last Aug. 2, tossing six scoreless innings in a 4-0 victory.

Butto will be recalled from Triple-A Syracuse before Sunday’s game. He hasn’t pitched since his season debut April 4, when he didn’t factor into the decision after allowing one run over six innings in the Mets’ 2-1 win over the Detroit Tigers in the second game of a doubleheader. He has never faced the Royals.