NEW YORK -- For the New York Mets, the pain from losing the World Series won't disappear for quite some time.
However, even in the immediate aftermath of elimination very early Monday morning, the Mets were proud of traveling further and arriving on the doorstep of a championship faster than almost anyone could have anticipated.
The Mets blew a two-run ninth inning lead in Game 5 of the World Series on Sunday night before the Royals busted out for five runs in the 12th inning of a 7-2 win that gave Kansas City the second championship in franchise history.
"Rightfully, this stings," said Mets third baseman David Wright, the team captain. "And our heads are going to be down for a little bit."
The Mets will be particularly down about the near-misses that could have tilted the Series in their favor. New York blew a ninth inning lead as well in Game 1 on Tuesday, which the Royals eventually won 5-4 in 14 innings.
On Saturday, the Mets blew a pair of two-run leads and lost when the Royals scored three times in the eighth inning of a 5-3 win. And on Sunday, right-hander Matt Harvey carried a four-hit shutout into the ninth before Kansas City stormed back.
"That's why it's baseball," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "That's why you've got to play nine innings. You say you had them -- you never have them until the 27th out is made.
"I told the guys: This is the time to enjoy it and be proud of your accomplishments. But when you lose at the end of the season, it's not fun."
Even so, the idea of the Mets ending the season in the World Series -- and not after game No. 162, as they had during the previous six sub-.500 seasons -- seemed inconceivable when the injury-plagued team had the lowest-scoring offense in the National League and a 49-48 record through July 24.
A series of deadline deals, as well as the return of Wright (spinal stenosis) and catcher Travis d'Arnaud (elbow) rejuvenated the Mets, who moved into a tie for first place in the NL East by sweeping the Washington Nationals from July 31 through Aug. 2. The Mets moved into sole possession of first place the next day and never fell out.
"I told the guys in this clubhouse, this organization, this fan base, this city turned, for me, my worst year because of this injury into the most exciting time I've ever had on a baseball field," Wright said. "I can't thank the guys in this clubhouse enough, these fans, this organization, (for) this opportunity to play in the World Series."
Now the Mets will attempt to do what the Royals did -- coming back to win the World Series the year after losing it. While budgetary woes always will loom for New York in the post-Bernie Madoff era -- outfielder Yoenis Cespedes is almost sure to depart as a free agent while second baseman Daniel Murphy may also exit for greener pastures -- the team's vaunted young rotation of Harvey, right-handers Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard and left-hander Steven Matz should ensure contention for the foreseeable future at Citi Field.
"I'll tell you one thing: They learned how to get through this," Collins said of the pitchers. "They learned how to get through a long season. They learned what it's like to play in October, and they're going to be a lot better because of this experience."
It is an experience they will cherish -- sooner than later, perhaps.
"As much as it stings, a couple days from now, a couple weeks from now, you'll be able to sit back, kind of take a deep breath and just think about how cool this was and how much fun we had and how proud we should be of what we were able to accomplish this year," Wright said. "That means a lot to me. And I'm sure everybody in here will sit back and have a smile on their faces when they think about everything we accomplished this year."