Through a particularly brutal quirk in the schedule, the Mets played a night game in Atlanta on Thursday, boarded a red-eye to the West Coast, then opened a three-game set against the Angels on Friday night.
The wheels on their charter touched down at about 3 a.m. here, though according to their scrambled body clocks, it already was 6 a.m. By early afternoon, the bleary-eyed Mets had arrived at Angel Stadium for what manager Terry Collins called a "character-testing day."
Little did he know that the test would go into extra innings and would end with one more twist of the knife.
With the bases loaded in the 11th inning Friday night, Mets reliever Jeurys Familia plunked Hank Conger to force home Raul Ibañez with the winning run in a 5-4 walk-off win by the Angels.
"I just tried to keep going, pound the zone, get a ground ball," said Familia, who plunked Conger with his 51st pitch of the night, the most he's ever thrown in a big-league relief appearance.
Ibañez touched the plate just after 2 a.m. East Coast time, ending a 3-hour, 54-minute game in which the Mets blew a two-run lead and failed to collect a hit from the seventh inning on.
"Yeah, they're tired," Collins said. "They're tired. So we'll go and get some sleep and we'll come back tomorrow."
Mets relievers had gone 201/3 consecutive innings without surrendering a run, an impressive stretch after they were bashed for 14 runs in their first four games of the season.
The streak survived the eighth, when Kyle Farnsworth left the bases loaded by getting Albert Pujols to beat a 95-mph fastball into the ground. It lived on through the 10th, when Familia stranded two more runners by getting Pujols to hit a weak comebacker.
But it ended in the 11th after Ibañez led off with a single, advanced to second on a wild pitch and moved to third base on David Freese's groundout. Collins opted to intentionally walk Howie Kendrick and J.B. Shuck to load the bases for Conger, who got ahead 2-and-0 and was plunked in the right ribcage by Familia's 2-and-2 pitch.
With that, the Mets (4-6) missed their chance to reach the .500 mark for the first time this season.
"We got in late last night," said Travis d'Arnaud, who homered in a losing effort. "But that's no excuse. That's part of what we do, traveling, normal stuff."
The Mets took a 4-2 lead against Tyler Skaggs, the 22-year-old lefty making his Angels home debut, on Josh Satin's two-run double in the fourth inning.
But Skaggs showed some poise, holding the Mets in check even though he scattered nine hits in seven innings.
The Mets caught a break in missing slugger Josh Hamilton, who went down this week with a thumb injury that will sideline him for at least six weeks. At the time of his injury, Hamilton was hitting .444 with two homers through his first eight games.
But they weren't spared from a meeting with Mike Trout, who wasted little time announcing his presence. Trout bashed his third homer of the season, golfing a solo shot in the first inning that knotted the score at 1-1.
Gee worked out of a bases- loaded jam in the fifth, but in the sixth, he found no reprieve. After he issued a one-out walk to Howie Kendrick, Hamilton's replacement on the roster made the pitcher pay. Recently recalled leftfielder J.B. Shuck drilled a two-run homer to rightfield to tie it at 4-4.
Gee did not survive the inning, but Carlos Torres struck out Trout to strand two runners.
Gee struck out five in 52/3 innings but also gave up four runs, six hits and four walks in a no-decision.
"Today just was not a good outing all the way around," Gee said.
The score remained tied until the 11th, when Collins faced a difficult choice. Closer Jose Valverde and John Lannan were available out of the bullpen. But Collins wanted to preserve Valverde for a possible save opportunity, with Lannan in reserve in case Valverde blew a save and the Angels tied the score.
That meant sticking with Familia. With one out and a runner on third, Collins ordered a pair of intentional walks.
"Well, your options are pretty limited," Collins said. "You either play the infield in and create a bunch of holes or you try to set up some force plays."
With his rhythm rattled by the free passes, Familia threw two straight balls to Conger and wound up hitting him. It was the first time the Mets lost on a walk-off hit by pitch since 2008.
"You're not asking any guy like that to go out there for three innings," Collins said of Familia. "He went out there and did a nice job. We just couldn't get him any runs."
Notes & quotes: The use of the designated hitter will allow the Mets to start both Ike Davis and Lucas Duda on Saturday . . . Outfielder Chris Young (quadriceps) will begin his rehab assignment Saturday with Triple-A Las Vegas. He could rejoin the Mets later on the road trip in Arizona . . . A fan was ejected in the eighth inning for reaching over the railing to touch Curtis Granderson shortly after he made a catch in the rightfield corner. Granderson appeared angered as he pointed out the fan, who was escorted out by security officers.