CINCINNATI — The Mets have needed an ace with their two highest-profile pitchers on the injured list, and Taijuan Walker has filled the role nicely.
Simply, the right-hander has been every bit the force the Mets received in last yr’s first half, when he represented the team on the All-Star Game in Colorado. His body of labor suggests he belongs within the conversation to repeat as a National League All-Star, in his hometown of Los Angeles.
Walker flexed his muscle again Monday night. Save for an early home run allowed to Brandon Drury, he manhandled the Reds lineup within the Mets’ 7-4 victory at Great American Ball Park. The win was the Mets’ second straight and third in 4 games following their first three-game losing streak of the season.
Over six innings, Walker allowed three earned runs on 4 hits with nine strikeouts and one walk. His ERA rose to 2.86, which ranks ninth within the NL. Walker has pitched not less than six innings in each of his last six starts and just once this season has he allowed greater than 4 earned runs in a start. Over his last 11 starts he owns a 2.53 ERA, carrying the load with Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer on the IL. Scherzer is scheduled to return Tuesday night for his first start since May 18.
Taijuan Walker pitches on Monday in the course of the Mets’ win over the Reds.AP
“I believe [Walker] has been awesome,” said Dominic Smith, who delivered a two-run double within the sixth that helped the Mets extend their lead. “He’s just showing what he showed us last yr when he was an All-Star. It’s something he’s able to doing and I do know with our dogs out and our big horses out he’s definitely attempting to put us on his back and show us the explanation he was an All-Star.”
Walker was asked how his first half of this season compares to the identical stretch last yr.
“I believe in regards to the same,” he said. “I just feel like things are more consistent this yr, with all my pitches, I feel good, healthy.”
Francisco Lindor connects on a solo home run within the fifth inning. AP
Brandon Nimmo celebrates after his three-run home run within the second inning. USA TODAY Sports
Buck Showalter was glad to receive six innings from Walker within the stifling humidity. Walker worked an ideal sixth after which watched Drew Smith, Colin Holderman and Seth Lugo survive the following three.
“Tai has been on roll for some time,” Showalter said. “I believed he was challenged a bit of bit. The following two days are going to be really difficult heat-wise, the warmth index and sometimes you’ve got a bit of bit different feel to your body and he got through it. That last inning was big for us because we didn’t have 4 pitchers within the bullpen today.”
Francisco Lindor’s solo homer within the fifth gave the Mets a 4-3 lead against Hunter Greene. The blast was Lindor’s thirteenth of the season, second on the Mets to Pete Alonso’s 22 homers. Lindor worked the count full before pulling a 100 mph fastball into the right-field seats. It was something of a strenuous inning for Greene, who needed 12 pitches to retire Brandon Nimmo leading off the frame.
Dominic Smith hits a two-run double within the sixth inning. AP
Nimmo’s three-run homer within the second inning gave the Mets a 3-0 advantage. Mark Canha was hit by a pitch within the inning and Tomas Nido singled before Nimmo jumped on a first-pitch slider and reached the right-field seats. Nimmo’s homer was his sixth of the season.
The Mets prolonged their lead within the sixth on Smith’s two-run double against lefty Reiver Sanmartin. Smith, who entered the night with a .487 OPS this season against lefties, has provided the Mets with punch in recent days and since getting back from a stint with Triple-A Syracuse. Within the seventh, Eduardo Escobar — who went homerless for the primary time in 4 games — stroked an RBI single that sunk the Reds in a 7-3 hole.
Drury, a former Mets utilityman, continued his impressive first half with a three-run homer within the third inning that tied it 3-3. The homer was only the fourth allowed by Walker this season and first since June 7 in San Diego. Entering play Walker was third in the key leagues (amongst pitchers with not less than 70 innings) with a ratio of 0.35 homers allowed per nine innings.
The Mets won their fiftieth game — and won’t reach the midway point of their season until Tuesday.
“That’s obviously a giant milestone, so I feel like we have now had first half,” Nimmo said. “I don’t think anybody would complain about it, but we also know we have now places that we are able to improve … given what’s happened in the primary half of the season I believe we could be pretty glad when you told us in the beginning of the yr, ‘These items are going to occur and you might be still going to be at 50 wins or 51 wins at the tip of it.’ ”