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Bullpen blows Walker’s return, offense stagnant in loss to Phillies

Taijuan Walker pitched five scoreless innings, and not much else happened.

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at New York Mets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The Mets had the chance to follow up their second no-hitter in franchise history on Friday night by furthering another historical record and making it seven straight series wins to start the season. Alas, they will have to wait until Sunday to (hopefully) notch that bit of history, as the Phillies came back from their hapless offensive performance in the first game of the series by keeping the Mets offense largely off the board and beating up on the bullpen. The Mets fell to their division rivals 4-1.

Taijuan Walker made his return to the mound after pitching just two innings against the Phillies on April 11 before heading to the injured list. After the Mets kept Philadelphia hitless for nine innings on Friday night, Walker allowed fans to dream of a Johnny Vander Meer repeat for at least one inning by pitching a perfect first, but Nick Castellanos singled to lead off the second to finally get the Phillies off the schneid. However, he was quickly eliminated off the base paths thanks to a sterling pick-off move by Walker, who also worked around a subsequent walk to J.T. Realmuto by getting Kyle Schwarber to ground into a double play.

Walker also got into a bit of trouble in the third inning, as he allowed two baserunners on through a walk and a single, but once again managed to keep the Phillies off the board. Indeed, aside from those two brief threats, it was altogether a pretty smooth night for Walker. He didn’t strike out too many—only a Bryce Harper swinging K in the first inning—but his velocity was solid, his secondary pitches looked good, and he did not show any lingering issues from his previous injury. He had been targeting 80-85 pitches coming into the game, and he ended up at 73 through five scoreless innings in which he gave up two hits and two walks. It was altogether an encouraging outing from him, and he should hopefully be good to go for a close-to-full workload in his subsequent starts.

Meanwhile, the Mets offense kept it a 0-0 game in the early goings against Phillies starter Kyle Gibson, forgoing opportunities with runners in scoring position in both the first and fourth innings. They finally broke through in the fifth inning, thanks in part to some classic Phillies defensive misfortune. After McCann led off the inning with a groundout to third, Nimmo walked to get things started, and Starling Marte followed that up with a ground ball right back to Gibson. It should have been a fairly easy double play to end the inning, but instead Gibson airmailed the throw to second base into the outfield, and Nimmo moved on to third to put runners at the corner with one out. Francisco Lindor then came up to the plate and hit a soft ground ball to first base; Nimmo was running on contact at third, and he beat the throw at home to score the first run of the game and give the Mets a 1-0 lead. Alonso followed with a walk, which resulted in Kyle Gibson being removed from the game after just 4.1 innings, but Jose Alvarado came in and struck out the next two batters with the bases loaded to keep the Mets from furthering the damage.

Trevor May pitched a scoreless sixth inning for the Amazins (a good sign, considering his recent struggles), and Adam Ottavino then came on for the seventh inning. The veteran reliever has been a solid presence in the bullpen for the Mets, but he proceeded to have his worst outing so far this year. After retiring the leadoff hitter, he walked Castellanos on a couple of close pitchers, bringing Mets killer Kyle Schwarber to the plate to do what he does best: kill the Mets. Indeed, the veteran slugger knocked a long homer to center field to give the Phillies their first runs and their first lead of the series, as the Mets were now staring at a 2-1 deficit. And unfortunately, they weren’t quite done, either. Alec Bohm followed the homer with a walk, and he then ran on a 3-2 pitch to the next batter. Ottavino recorded the strikeout, but McCann’s throw went into center to send Bohm to third. That didn’t really end up mattering, though, since Odubel Herrera’s subsequent opposite field double would have scored him either way. In any event, that hit made it 3-1 Phillies, and Ottavino was finally mercifully removed from the game in favor of Sean Reid-Foley, who ended the inning.

The troubles were not over yet, unfortunately. Reid-Foley came back out for the eighth inning, and he quickly gave up another homer—this one off the bat of Rhys Hoskins—to make it 4-1. To add injury to insult, a few batters later the trainer needed to come out to take a look at Reid-Foley, and he ended up leaving the game due to what turned out to be right elbow discomfort. Chasen Shreve came on and managed to finish the inning (and would go on to pitch a perfect ninth inning as well), but nevertheless, the main concern was on Reid-Foley’s well-being. With rosters set to decrease on Monday, his spot on the team was in jeopardy, but now it may end up being that he will head to the injured list instead of waivers.

With the Phillies having taken the lead against the Mets bullpen, the Mets in turn should have been able to do the same against the notoriously bad Phillies bullpen, but alas, that was not the case. The only meaningful threat came in the bottom of the eighth, when old friend Jeurys Familia walked two batters before getting pulled for closer Corey Knebel, who immediately issued yet another walk to load the bases for Nimmo. The Mets had them on the ropes, but they were unable to follow through on the threat, as Nimmo grounded out to second to end the inning. Knebel then came back on for the ninth, and aside from giving up a single to Lindor was able to shut the Mets down to end the ballgame.

With that, the series was tied at one game apiece. If there’s any consolation for the Mets, it’s the knowledge that they are turning to Max Scherzer in Sunday’s finale to go for the series victory.

Box scores

ESPN
MLB

Win Probability Added

Fangraphs

What’s WPA?

Big Mets winner: Taijuan Walker, +25.6% WPA
Big Mets loser: Adam Ottavino, -56.5% WPA
Mets pitchers: -25.8% WPA
Mets hitters: -24.2% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Francisco Lindor RBI fielder’s choice in the fifth, +9.9% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Kyle Schwarber two-run homer in the seventh, -41.8% WPA

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