ANAHEIM, Calif. — Taijuan Walker was the hardest-working pitcher in the Mets’ West Coast Swing marathon that ended Sunday night.
It’s rare for a pitcher to get three starts on the same road trip, but there was Walker facing the Angels to complete 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 task. I wanted to take on the top three teams and go out there and show what I could do.
It was among his best. Walker struck out 10 batters and walked only one of six innings in which he allowed an earned run on six hits. It was a rebound from a shaky start against the Padres in which Walker allowed four earned runs in six innings. To start the trip, Walker gave up two earned runs in 5 ²/₃ innings against the Dodgers.
The Angels connected for four hits against Walker in the first inning, but only scored once. After that round, Walker adjusted.
“I think in that first run they might have had a little tip on me,” Walker said, adding that he may have had the same problem in San Diego. To rectify the pitch tilt, he held his glove closer to him after Sunday’s first run.
Seth Lugo pitched 1 ¹/₃ scoreless innings in relief before Edwin Diaz got the final five outs for his 12th save of 15 chances. Diaz entered the eighth with a runner on first base and retired Mike Trout. After Diaz walked Anthony Rendon, he took out Jared Walsh on a 101.6 mph fastball. Diaz then hit the side in the ninth.
“[Diaz] had his big boy stuff today,” Pete Alonso said. “His fastball was electric and he dotted corners. It sucks for the other hitters.
Diaz had only thrown twice before on the trip and Monday’s day off allowed Buck Showalter to extend his rapprochement. Diaz pitched for the Mariners in the AL West earlier in his career, so his showdown with Trout was nothing new.
“I know how to throw it,” Diaz said. “I got a good result against him and today I did my job.”
Alonso provided the Mets with an insurance run the following inning by blowing his NL-leading 18th homer of the season. The outburst was Alonso’s second in as many games.
Starling Marte, who returned to the lineup after missing three games with sore left quadriceps, hit an RBI double in the third inning against Patrick Sandoval that gave the Mets their first inning. Brandon Nimmo scored a single in the top of the inning before Marte hit a shot to right center that led to the run.
JD Davis’ solo homer in the fourth gave the Mets a 2-1 lead. The outburst was Davis’ second this season and first since April 24.
Marte continued to run from second in Alonso’s field as Matt Duffy choked on the outfield grass in the seventh and scored the Mets’ third run. It came after Marte walked and advanced to second from the back of a double steal attempt – lead runner Nimmo was pinned down to third.
Trout – who homered twice the night before when he returned to the lineup after a 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 early in the game for the Angels. Rendon hit in a double play or the inning could have been worse for Walker, who allowed back-to-back singles to Walsh and Duffy later in the frame.
Walker allowed a field single to Marsh before the third, but that was eradicated by a pick-off at first base. The Angels put two runners on base in the fourth, but Walker pulled out Tyler Wade to escape before putting the team out in order in the fifth and sixth innings.
Showalter was asked what he learned about his team during this long journey.
“I think more importantly, it reaffirms what I think,” he said. “I have thought since the spring that we are lucky to have a very good group of people who care about competition.”