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Mets’ defense leads the way in victory over the Nationals

The defense showed up in a big way to help the Mets take the series from their division rivals.

Washington Nationals v New York Mets Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

After splitting the first two games, the Mets needed a win in order to take the series over their division rivals, and with the help of their defense, they did just that with a 4-0 victory. It was especially important to take advantage this early in the season since Washington remained without their best hitter in Juan Soto, and they missed Max Scherzer in the rotation.

The Mets hopes were on Taijuan Walker where the Nationals countered with Patrick Corbin on the mound. Walker started off giving up a single to Josh Harrison but he picked him off of first to set the defensive tone for the day. Jonathan Villar continued the theme later in the inning when he snagged a line drive off of the bat Josh Bell with a runner on second to end the threat.

As for the Mets in the bottom half of the inning, manager Luis Rojas shuffled his lineup a bit since they were facing a lefty. J.D. Davis was penciled into the cleanup role since he has taken Corbin deep in the past. It is also worth noting Davis has always hit well at Citi Field. In 2019, he became the Mets record holder for OPS at Citi taking the crown from David Wright. He paid immediate dividends when he took Corbin deep with two out and a runner on, and he did not stop there. He went 3-for-4 at the plate with two runs and two RBIs and offensively looked very much like the J.D. Davis from the second half of 2019 when he was one of the offensive standouts on the team.

Given the early lead it looked like Walker would settle in after he had an easy second inning but in the third Victor Robles laced a ball to right for a double. Michael Conforto had issues in right in the previous game but he fielded this ball cleanly and got it in quickly to Villar since Robles was on his way to third. Villar gave a one hop to Davis who got the tag down for the out. The rest of the inning was a bit shaky for Walker but he escaped without damage due to the excellent rely work by Conforto and Villar.

The Mets added on in the fourth on three straight hits by Davis, Conforto, and James McCann. After Albert Almora walked they loaded the bases and were looking for more with Brandon Nimmo up. Nimmo has been incredible in the lead off position and has an elite eye at the plate. After getting a call earlier in the at bat, on a 3-2 count Nimmo watched another ball in a similar area and started to take his base. The home plate umpire disagreed and called Nimmo out for strike three to end the inning. That play was frustrating on multiple levels but Pete Alonso added to it when he lead off the next inning against Corbin with a home run. He very easily could have been facing him with the bases loaded instead of bases empty the following inning. The team certainly got their hits with the two big blasts by Davis and Alonso standing out, but the game felt like it should not have been as close as it was in actuality. It got worse when Francisco Lindor got thrown out at the plate on a nice throw by Kyle Schwarber after he was originally called safe.

The Nationals did mount a rally in the sixth inning but the Mets and Walker managed to escape unscathed thanks in large part to Almora who got the start in center. With two out and two on, Schwarber blasted a ball to center that Almora kept tracking and tracking before he leapt and slammed into the wall to make the catch and rob his former Cubs’ teammate of an extra base hit. It was an absolutely incredible catch that kept Washington from getting back into the game.

Overall it was a bit of an uneven start from Taijuan Walker who did get the help of his defense throughout his start. However he did what he needed to do and was finished after seven innings, three hits, three walks, and zero runs. Miguel Castro allowed a couple of hits in relief but struck out the final two batters he faced to end his outing.

“Narco” heralded Edwin Diaz’s entrance into the game for the ninth and and easy inning from the closer sealed the victory.

There was a lot to like from this game outside of the stellar defense. In addition to Pete Alonso and J.D. Davis looking good at the plate, Michael Conforto also looked much better and nearly missed a home run that went for a double instead. The pitching was again solid and shut out the Nationals for the second time in the series. The team desperately needed a feel good win after the previous game and the disastrous Cubs series and they achieved just that.

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What’s WPA?

Big Mets winner: Taijuan Walker, +28% WPA
Big Mets loser: Brandon Nimmo, -5.9% WPA
Mets pitchers: 31% WPA
Mets hitters: 19.1% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: J.D. Davis home run in the first
Teh sux0rest play: Josh Harrison single in first