Taijaun Walker refused to be outdone by Justin Verlander in the Mets‘ 2-0 loss to the Astros on Wednesday at Citi Field.
Lately, the right-hander’s starts have only gotten better and better, reminiscent of his first-half performance in 2021, which earned him his first All-Star nod of his career. Walker threw 7.1 shutout innings in his best start of the season yet, against an Astros lineup that has given the Mets a lot of trouble. Walker then retired nine consecutive innings, tying Verlander’s outing inning by inning in the scoreless game.
Outstanding as the outing was, Buck Showalter interrupted in the eighth. With a sense of urgency and to avoid their first three-game loss series of the year, Mets skipper Walker withdrew after getting one out in the eighth, giving the ball earlier than usual to closer Edwin Diaz.
Diaz hit his first batter, Jose Altuve, through a 98 mph fastball. He then gave up a single to Jeremy Pena. Allowing even a small amount of momentum to a fiery Astros attack is never a good scenario. But Diaz immediately bounced back. The closer eliminated slugger Yordan Alvarez with a swinging strike, then fanned Alex Bregman to keep the scoreless game.
Instead of bringing Diaz back for ninth on 14 pitches, Showalter went to reliever Drew Smith. It didn’t end well. Smith coughed up a two-run homerun to Astros catcher Jason Castro, who went into the day with only .095 and fired his first homerun of the year on Wednesday to break the ice.
The Mets (47-29) were swept by the Astros this year in their home-and-home series with two games at Minute Maid Park and two at Citi Field. The Amazin’s also suffered their first three-game loss streak of the season.
Walker’s excellent 2.72 ERA is the best in the Mets starting rotation, among pitchers not currently on the injured list anyway. He high-fives every infielder on the mound before walking into the dugout to a huge standing ovation from the 29,230 in attendance. Walker looked around, taking in the noise from the crowd as he wrapped up a dazzling performance in his 13th start of the year.
The decorated veteran starter in the other dugout flashed a 2.03 ERA when his eight-inning shutout outing was over. Verlander, back in his season from Tommy John surgery, owns the fourth-lowest ERA in the major leagues. Only three Mets-hitters reached base against Verlander – a double by Brandon Nimmo, a single by Ender Inciarte and a walk by Pete Alonso.
The Mets attack, a unit that has been experiencing a lull of late, was held to two hits by two Houston arms all afternoon. The Mets bats are 2-for-25 with runners in scoring position in their last three games, dating back to Sunday against the Marlins in Miami.