Mets ride Taijuan Walker’s jewel in victory over Angels

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Mets ride Taijuan Walker's jewel in victory over Angels

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Taijuan Walker was the hardest-working pitcher in the Mets West Coast Marathon that ended Sunday night.

Rarely does a pitcher get three starts on the same road trip, but Walker faced the Angels to book a trip that began with him on the mound at Dodger Stadium on June 2.

“I feel like that’s rare,” Walker said after the Mets won 4-1 at Angel Stadium to salvage a 5-5 road trip. “But I wanted it. I wanted the job. I wanted to compete against the top three teams and go out there and show what I can do.”

This was among his best. Walker knocked out 10 batters and went just one over six innings in which he conceded a deserved six-hit run. It was a rebound from a shaky start against the Padres that saw Walker allow four earned runs over six innings. To start the journey, Walker gave up two earned 5 ²/₃-innings runs against the Dodgers.

The Angels scored four hits against Walker in the first inning but only managed one. After that inning, Walker adjusted.

Taijuan Walker plays during the Mets' win over the Angels on Sunday.
Taijuan Walker plays during the Mets’ win over the Angels on Sunday.
USA TODAY sports

“I think maybe they had a little tip on me in that first inning,” Walker said, adding that he may have had the same problem in San Diego. To compensate for the tilting of the pitch, he held his glove closer to himself after Sunday’s first inning.

Seth Lugo threw 1 ¹/₃ scoreless innings in relief before Edwin Diaz made the final five outs for his 12th save in 15 chances. Diaz got into eighth with a runner at first base, beating Mike Trout. After leading Anthony Rendon, Diaz beat Jared Walsh with a 101.6 mph fastball. Diaz then hit the side in the ninth.

“[Diaz] had his big boy stuff today,” said Pete Alonso. “His fastball was electric and he was scoring corners. It sucks for other hitters.”

Edwin Diaz reacts after hitting Jared Walsh to end the eighth inning.
Edwin Diaz reacts after hitting Jared Walsh to end the eighth inning.
AP

Diaz had only served twice previously on the trip and Monday’s day off provided Buck Showalter with an opportunity to extend his closeness. Diaz played for the Mariners in the AL West earlier in his career, so his showdown with Trout was hardly new.

“I know how to set it up,” Diaz said. “I got a good result against him and today I did my job.”

Alonso provided the Mets with an insurance run in the next inning by blowing up his NL-leading 18th homer of the season. The blast was Alonso’s second in as many games.

Starling Marte, who returned to the lineup after missing three games with a left quadriceps pain, stroked an RBI double in the third inning against Patrick Sandoval that gave the Mets their first run. Brandon Nimmo singled the lead from the inning before Marte hit a shot down center right that earned the run.

JD Davis’ fourth-goal solo homer gave the Mets a 2-1 lead. The blast was Davis’ second this season and first since April 24.

Starling Marte scores on Pete Alonso's infield hit in the seventh inning.
Starling Marte scores on Pete Alonso’s infield hit in the seventh inning.
USA TODAY sports
JD Davis hits a solo home run in the fourth inning.
JD Davis hits a solo home run in the fourth inning.
AP

Marte ran on from second place on Alonso’s grounder, which Matt Duffy choked on the outfield grass in the seventh, for the Mets’ third run. It came after Marte ran and moved up to second after a double steal attempt – leading runner, Nimmo, was nailed to third.

Trout – who hit a homer twice on his return to the lineup last night due to groin pain that cost him three games – delivered an RBI single in the first that gave the Angels a 1-0 lead. Brandon Marsh had doubled the game for the Angels. Rendon scored in a doubles game or the inning could have been worse for Walker, who later allowed back-to-back singles for Walsh and Duffy in the frame.

Walker allowed Marsh an infield single that led third, but that was eradicated by a pickoff at first base. The Angels put two runners on base in the fourth inning, but Walker knocked out Tyler Wade to get away before pulling the team back in sequence in the fifth and sixth innings.

Showalter was asked what he learned about his team during this long journey.

“I think, more importantly, it validates what I think,” he said. “I think since the spring we’ve had a chance to have a really good group of people interested in the competition.”

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