NEW YORK -- In real time, the New York Mets' 2-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals in a rematch of the 2015 World Series on Tuesday night at Citi Field didn't feel like a "must-win" game for the defending National League champions.
But once the Mets had a chance to reflect on a game in which five relievers combined for the final 26 outs after right-hander Bartolo Colon exited with a thumb injury?
"I think my thought was more 'Boy, this would be a great game to win,' with what happened, to still have the lead when you got to the back end of the bullpen," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "But to say, 'Boy, this is a game we have to win ... "
"That might be something I need to think about," Collins said. "Because we might have been out of pitching (today) if we got much deeper."
The Mets, who received solo homers in the first and fourth innings from Asdrubal Cabrera and Yoenis Cespedes, will have some relievers available for the series finale on Wednesday thanks mostly to right-hander Hansel Robles, who replaced Colon after the 43-year-old was struck in the right thumb by a line drive off the bat of Royals leadoff hitter Whit Merrifield.
X-rays were negative and Colon is day to day with a contusion.
Robles allowed one run, five hits and one walk while striking out six in a career-high 3 2/3 innings and 65 pitches.
"Robles came in and did a phenomenal job getting some depth in that game," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "That could spell disaster, but he didn't allow that to happen."
The 25-year-old, who threw two innings in the Mets' previous game on Sunday, hadn't thrown more than three innings since he was a starter in Double-A in 2014.
"I haven't pitched this long in the big leagues," Robles said through an interpreter. "I was a little tired, but not too exhausted."
Robles ran out of the gas in the fifth, when he allowed a leadoff single to Paulo Orlando before walking Cheslor Cuthbert and giving up an RBI single to Brett Eibner that cut the Mets' lead to 2-1.
Right-hander Erik Goeddel entered to face Kendrys Morales, who was pinch hitting for starting pitcher Ian Kennedy. Morales missed a go-ahead, three-run homer by a few feet as he flied out to the wall in right before Goeddel struck out Merrifield and induced Alcides Escobar to hit into a fielder's choice.
"That could be a big inning right there," Yost said. "We felt we would take a shot with Morales and it almost worked."
Goeddel worked around base runners in the sixth as he threw two innings for just the sixth time in 45 big league appearances.
"You expect people are going to have to go multiple innings," Goeddel said. "It was amazing that Robles got thru (almost) four like that because I'd never seen him go more than two before. After that, can't really worry about going two if someone else already set the bar."
Jerry Blevins and Addison Reed each threw a perfect inning before Jeurys Familia notched his 23rd save with a one-hit ninth.
"Looking back, what a job that Robles did and then Goeddel did," Blevins said. "When those guys pitch the way they did, you definitely want to make sure we secure that one, because we earned it. That would have been a heartbreaker to lose."
The win marked the ninth time in franchise history the Mets have won a nine-inning game in which the starting pitcher had just one out.
"Those are the kind of games that I really believe that you should grow from," Collins said. "To hang on in that situation -- that was a great outing by every guy out of the pen."
Escobar and Paulo Orlando had two hits apiece for the Royals (38-32), who had their three-game winning streak snapped and fell 1 1/2 games behind the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central.
Kennedy took the loss after allowing two runs, four hits and one walk while striking out two in four innings. It was his second shortest start of the season.
NOTES: The Mets activated C Travis d'Arnaud (right rotator cuff) from the 15-day disabled list and optioned C Kevin Plawecki to Triple-A Las Vegas. They also recalled LHP Sean Gilmartin from Las Vegas and placed RHP Jim Henderson (biceps tendinitis) on the 15-day disabled list. D'Arnaud batted eighth and went 0-for-3 in his first game since Apr. 25. ... Mets RHP Zack Wheeler (Tommy John surgery) is scheduled to see team doctors Wednesday after developing soreness in his right elbow. He underwent surgery in March 2015. ... Royals manager Ned Yost said LF Alex Gordon (broken right wrist), who is 2-for-6 in two rehab games for Double-A Northwest Arkansas, could return to the major league roster this weekend. ... The Royals requested release waivers on 2B Omar Infante, who was designated for assignment June 15.