With a double header looming on Saturday, the Mets can’t afford a short start on Friday night.
But Taiguan Walker gave them that short start, potential injury fear and a deficit of eight runs in one stroke.
Walker’s night ended before he could score a fourth, and the Mets dug a huge hole they couldn’t get out of completely in a 9-6 loss to the Braves at Citi Field.
The short-term concern was the 8-0 deficit the Mets faced in the second half. There was also concern about potential injury after Walker caught his cleat during a court (which was later downplayed), as well as concern about the eight innings the Mets were forced to cover on the eve of playing at least 18 on Saturday. .
Rather than rolling, though, the Mets (67-39) made a game of it, taking an 8-5 by the fifth inning and eventually forcing the Braves (64-43) to use most of their high-impact relievers, including the closest Kenley Jansen. The Mets brought the potential range of the hook to the board in the sixth inning before shortening and leading them over the top of the NL East to 3 games ¹/₂.
“It wasn’t a good day for me,” said Walker, who is marked for eight runs in seven strokes more than one plus one. “I don’t want it to happen in a big series like this, but it did and I’m going to move on from it….My cones weren’t very good today either and I was leaving a lot of balls over the middle of the board. I didn’t do my job today and the bulls had to wear it, which I’m not proud of on the launch”.
The fear about Walker’s injury came in the first half, when he faltered after catching his cleat while tossing the ball to the third hitter of the night, Matt Olson. Walker then took a slow walk toward the board and back to the pile. This caught the attention of the bunker, and coach and manager Buck Showalter and shooting coach Jeremy Hefner came out to visit.
“He was struggling with it before that, so I don’t think so [affected him]Showalter said. “It’s one of those things that we’ll probably find out about tomorrow. But as the game progresses, he said he feels better.”
Walker remained in the match and seemed to be navigating through some annoyance as he was ambushed by the Braves. Olson hit double the RBI before Walker hit Austin Riley with a stray break.
Eddie Rosario came next and crushed Homer from three runs to the right field which put the Braves ahead 4-0.
After Ronald Acaña Jr stole Pete Alonso from a potential Homer in the lower half of the first half, the Braves continued their second-half defeat, which Michael Harris II led with a home run to make the score 5-0.
Acuña then sorted and stole in second and came to score on Dansby Swanson’s broken song before 114.6 mph Matt Olson knocked Walker out of the game after 50 throws. The right-handed’s speed has been low across all of his pitches, most notably the slider (-2.5 mph off his season average).
“I didn’t have an order in my fastball today,” said Walker, who cut a streak of 15 consecutive starts that allowed four or fewer rounds. “It was my splitter, it didn’t land any sliders for hits and I left balls over the middle of the board and they hit me really hard.”
Trevor Williams provided significant length to help save the bulls, resting Walker and throwing four goal-free runs.
The Mets had one run back in the second half – but squandered an opportunity to make more when Louis Gillorm was kicked off the plate from midfield by Harris – and then scored four more goals in the fifth inning. Singles of Francisco Lindor, Alonso and Jeff McNeil started the rally before Darren Rove made his Mets debut as a batsman against left-hander Dylan Lee and scored a double to cut Braves’ lead to 8-4.
Eduardo Escobar hit next and lined up the RBI song to make it 8-5, but that was as close as the Mets could get.