Taijuan Walker was a gift to the Mets in the season’s first half, but what happens when the batteries start dying and new ones can’t be found?
Regardless of what the Mets might add to their rotation before Friday’s 4 p.m. trade deadline, they need a better version of Walker than seen over his last three starts.
On Thursday he continued his post-All Star Game slide, allowing at least five earned runs for a third straight performance, in the Mets’ 6-3 loss to the Braves at Citi Field.
The Mets lost three of five games in the series and missed an opportunity to severely weaken a division foe’s chances of winning the NL East. The Braves trail the first place Mets by four games, with the Phillies also very much alive in the race at same amount of games back.
After surviving the previous night, with late-inning heroics from Brandon Drury, Jeurys Familia and Michael Conforto, among others, the Mets were flat for the series finale, with Walker the most conspicuous.
Overall, he surrendered five earned runs on six hits with seven strikeouts and two walks over five innings. The right-hander was stung by two homers, giving him five allowed over his last two starts. Since representing the Mets in the All-Star Game, Walker has pitched to a 15.43 ERA in three starts.
Austin Riley continued his torment of the Mets with a two-run homer in the fourth that gave the Braves a 2-1 lead. The blast was Riley’s fourth in three games and seventh overall against the Mets this season. Before the inning was complete, Abraham Almonte also homered.
Walker pitched to weaker contact in the fifth, allowing four singles that extended the Braves’ lead to 5-1. After Joc Pederson hit a roller through the second-base hole, Ozzie Albies delivered a bloop single in front of Brandon Nimmo for a run. Riley delivered an RBI single later in the inning to extend the lead.
Pete Alonso launched a mammoth two-run homer in the fifth that reached the top deck in left field and pulled the Mets’ within 5-3. The homer was Alonso’s 12th since June 28, the most in the NL during that stretch.
Dominic Smith hit a shot off the right-field fence at 104.7-mph that went for an RBI single in the third – he was out trying to reach second – that gave the Mets a 1-0 lead. It came after Almonte misplayed Brandon Nimmo’s drive to left-field into a leadoff double.