Taijuan Walker Defies Numbers, Pitches Mets Past Marlins By Matt Blittner, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com
It’s all about rest. Pitchers like to have a certain, consistent amount of rest between starts. On the other hand, position players prefer less rest so they can get into a rhythm at the plate. After all, athletes are creatures of habit. For the Mets, the “Rest Equation” has been something they’ve tried to balance all season long. Currently, only four players on the team have played at least 60 of the team’s first 66 games. As the “Dog Days of Summer” approach, we’ll see how that approach plays out.
Saturday, at Citi Field, the Mets sent Taijuan Walker to the mound to oppose Marlins’ starter Braxton Garrett and the result was a 3-2 victory. Walker took the mound on five days’ rest for only the second time this season and the results were much better this time around. This time, Walker went 6⅔ innings, gave up just two hits, one run, one walk and struckout nine.
Conversely, in his only other start of the season with five days rest, Walker picked up the 8-2 win against the Phillies at Citi Field on May 28th. In that game, Walker hurled five-innings of six-hit, two-run, three-walk, one-strikeout ball. And that performance was notable because Walker registered his fewest swing-and-miss strikes induced, fewest looking strikes called and second most fly balls allowed in any of his starts this year (outside of his season debut on April 11th – also against the Phillies). Those results suggest Walker did not have his best stuff and part of the reason could have been the disruption of his usual four-days rest routine.
For added context, throughout Walker’s career as a starter, his numbers when starting on five-days rest, are considerably worse than when he starts on the standard four-days rest. His career batting average against/OBP against/SLG against/OPS against when pitching on four-days rest are: .235/.294/.384/.678. Those numbers worsen to: .246/.316/.431/.747 when pitching on five-days rest. His ERA also jumps from 3.65 to 4.15.
On Saturday, Walker took those numbers and threw them out the window in a dominant performance; during which there was a stretch from the second batter of the game, until there were two-outs in the seventh, where he retired 18 Marlins hitters in a row. Meanwhile, Miami’s Braxton Garrett pitched just four-innings, gave up five-hits, three-runs, two-walks and did not strike out a batter.
Beyond Walker’s performance, the big story for the Mets on Saturday was the return of Eduardo Escobar, who missed the last couple games thanks to a dizzy spell that created a fair amount of concern for him. In his return to the lineup, Escobar went 0-for-3 with a flyout, groundout and a strikeout. But the more important thing is he’s healthy and that’s what matters most.
Aside from Walker and Escobar, the Mets used rallies in the second and third innings to score all the runs they needed to win the game.
After a Pete Alonso flyout to start the second, Mark Canha singled. Canha advanced to second on J.D. Davis’ walk and scampered to third on Escobar’s flyout. (Davis advanced to second on Escobar’s flyout). Jeff McNeil drove in Canha with an RBI-single to plate the game’s first run.
Moving to the bottom of the third, Brandon Nimmo began the frame with a groundout to second. Starling Marte followed with a single and came around to score when Francisco Lindor slammed a two-run home run to left-center to increase the Mets’ lead to 3-0.
Miami finally scratched out a run in the top of the seventh when Jazz Chisholm Jr. started the inning with a walk against Walker. Chisholm stole second while Jorge Soler was batting. Soler flew out to right and then Garrett Cooper flew out to center to advance Chisholm to third. Avisail Garcia doubled in Chisholm to get the Marlins on the board and knocked Walker out of the game in the process. Drew Smith came out of the Mets’ bullpen to strike out Lewin Diaz to end the inning and preserve the Mets’ 3-1 lead.
Things got dicey in the top of the ninth when Edwin Diaz allowed Jon Berti to reach base via a leadoff single. Berti stole second and took third when Tomas Nido’s throw went into center field. Diaz struck out Chisholm Jr. looking, which caused Miami’s second baseman to lose his cool and get into a shouting match with Home Plate Umpire Adam Beck. Chisholm Jr. was ejected and then Diaz struck out Soler swinging to get the Mets within one out of a 3-1 win. However, Cooper singled in Berti to bring the Marlins within 3-2 before Garcia struck out swinging to end the game.