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Four-run first catapults Mets to 6-3 victory over Yankees in first game of Subway Series

Walker pitched well enough, and Ottavino and Díaz closed things out

New York Yankees v New York Mets Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images

The Subway Series came extra hyped this year, with both New York teams in first place and fans looking to claim dominance. In the first game against the two squads in 2022, the Mets came out on top over the Yankees 6-3 thanks to a strong first inning for the offense and a gutsy pitching performance from both the starter and the bullpen.

Taijuan Walker took the mound for his first start of the second half. Every Mets fan who’s been trained to wait for the other shoe to drop will recall that Walker had a brilliant first half of his 2021 season, only to completely fall apart in the second half. The Mets desperately need Walker to avoid a similar collapse in 2022, but he did not get off to a good start to that goal in the first inning of his second half. After recording the first out of the ballgame, Aaron Judge came up to the plate, and on a 3-2 count he did what he does best: hit an impressive home run. The ball sailed over the right field fence, and the Yankees quickly had a 1-0—but only for a moment. On the very next pitch, Anthony Rizzo hit a solo homer of his own, and thus Walker—who had only given up four homers in the entire season coming into the game—had given up two runs very quickly, and the Mets were in an early hole.

But Walker retired the next two batters, and then the Mets offense went to work against Yankees starter Jordan Montgomery. After Brandon Nimmo flied out to center to start the frame, Starling Marte came up and got in on the home run barrage, hitting a shot to left field that cut the lead in half. That was just the beginning of Montgomery’s troubles against these Mets batters, as Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso followed with back-to-back doubles, and just like that the Mets had tied things up. Mark Canha struck out for the second out of the inning, but Eduardo Escobar—hitting from his superior right-handed side against the lefty pitcher—put the finishing touches on the frame with a two-run shot to left to give the Mets their second homer of the inning and a 4-2 lead.

Walker would continue to get into trouble over the next few innings, as he allowed two runners on in both the second and third innings but managed to escape unscathed both times (helping himself with a pick-off of Isiah Kiner-Falefa in the former frame). For Montgomery’s part, he threw a clean inning in the bottom of the second, but then faced more issues in the third. After homering in the first inning, Marte started the action again with a leadoff double. Lindor then hit a grounder to third which should have been a simple out, but Josh Donaldson threw an errant throw which hit Lindor as he was running into the first base bag and bounced into the outfielder. As a result, Marte was able to score from second, and Lindor replaced him at second. Montgomery then walked Alonso to put a second runner on-base, and while he did rebound to strike out Canha in the next at-bat, Aaron Boone decided that that was enough for his starter, whose pitch count was already running high. As such, the Yankees bullpen came on in just the third inning with the Mets threatening to put more runs on the board. Unfortunately, new pitcher Ron Marinaccio was able to keep them at five runs—albeit with a bit of help. Escobar flied out to left field for the second out, and on the throw back into the infield, the ball bounced away from Donaldson at third base. Lindor got overly aggressive and broke for third, but Marinaccio was able to quickly recover the ball and catch him in a rundown, ruining the Mets’ chances of scoring more in the inning.

Walker once again into trouble in the top of the fourth, and this time—with the help of some bad fundies—he gave up a run and come close to giving up a whole lot more. After getting the first out, Aaron Hicks nubbed a soft hit into the shift for an infield single. Kiner-Falefa followed that with a single to left to put runners on first and second. Jose Trevino then hit a soft ground ball to third that could have been the second out of the inning, but Escobar made the misguided decision to throw the ball to second, where Kiner-Falefa beat the throw to load the bases. DJ LeMahieu hit roughly the same ball to Escobar in the very next at-bat, and this time he made the wise decision to throw the ball to first to record the out, which did mean that a run scored to make it 5-3. With Judge then looming at the plate, Walker seemingly made the understandable decision to pitch around him, throwing him four straight balls to once again load the bases. However, he continued throwing balls to Rizzo, falling behind 3-0 and threatening to walk in another run. Mets’ fans hearts were already beating fast enough at this point, and then they completely stopped when Rizzo swung at the 3-0 pitch and hammered a ball to deep center field. Nimmo ran back and made the catch immediately in front of the wall, allowing both Walker and Mets fans to breathe a sigh of relief with the lead still intact.

Things quieted down for a while after this. For his part, Walker finally calmed down at this point, as he threw a 1-2-3 inning in both the fifth and sixth to end his night on a high note. His final line—six innings, seven hits, one walk, three strikeouts, three runs—is perfectly respectable considering the juggernaut lineup he was facing off against, and it’s certainly a good start to his quest for a better second half than his 2021 one. While he kept the Yankees off the board in these innings, the Yankees bullpen did the same to the Mets, as Marinaccio, Jonathan Loáisiga, Aroldis Chapman, and Wandy Peralta combined to only give up two hits and no runs to the Mets through the seventh inning. With Walker exiting with just a two-run lead, the Mets bullpen would need to be similarly effective to lock down this win.

Adam Ottavino came on in the seventh to face the dangerous top of the Yankees lineup. After recording the first out, Judge lined a single to left. Rizzo followed by getting hit by a pitch on the foot (though the Yankees needed to use a challenge to confirm that he was in fact hit) to put runners on first and second with one out, once again putting the Mets and their fans’ sanity in a difficult spot. Judge and Rizzo decided to try to further make things happen by attempting a double steal; Nido elected to throw to second, and Rizzo’s foot slid off the bag long enough for McNeil to make the tag and record the second out. Ottavino then got Torres to pop up in the infield to leave Judge stranded at third.

With the best hitters in the lineup retired for the time being but the rest of the Yankees lineup still posing a major threat, Buck Showalter elected to trust his top setup man for a second inning of work in the top of the eighth. He quickly retired the first two batters in the inning, but Aaron Hicks then worked a walk to bring the tying run to the plate, and Boone decided to bring in a power hitter to go for a game-tying bomb, as Joey Gallo pinch-hit for Kiner-Falefa. Showalter decided to follow suit and bring in his power closer Edwin Díaz for a four-out save. So we had the pitcher with the highest strikeout rate in the game going up against the hitter with the highest strikeout rate in the game. Would anybody care to take a wild guess as to what the end result was? If you guessed a swinging strikeout by Gallo to end the inning, ding ding ding, come and claim your prize.

With Judge set to come up in the ninth inning, the Mets certainly wanted an insurance run heading into the bottom of the eighth. Albert Abreu came in to try to keep the Yankees’ bullpen scoreless streak intact, but got off to a rough start on that front, as Lindor hit an infield single to leadoff the inning and Alonso followed with another single—his third hit of the night—to put runners on second and first with no outs. However, pinch-hitter Daniel Vogelbach and Eduardo Escobar both quickly struck out swinging, and the Mets were almost held off the board once again. The badly slumping Jeff McNeil (0 for his last 19 at this point) came up to the plate, and a wild pitch sent the runners to second and third. McNeil made them pay for that error by lining a single to left field, easily scoring Lindor from third to give the Mets their insurance run and make it 6-3.

After the Mets were retired, Díaz came back on for the ninth to try to seal the deal. As was often the case in this game, it did not come without some stressors. Trevino led off the inning with a soft ground ball to third base that he was able to beat out for a leadoff infield single. Díaz followed that by striking out LeMahieu for the first out, meaning that Judge would be unable to tie the game. Judge did not quite hit the ball far enough to do that regardless, as he hit a chopper back to Díaz that could have easily been a game-ending double play. However, he did not get a good grip on the ball as he prepared to throw it to second, and he spiked the ball in front of him to put runners on both first and second with one out. A lesser closer may have lost his cool at this point—Díaz simply took this sequence of events as a reminder that he should simply not allow the other team to put the ball into play. He quickly struck out Rizzo swinging for the second out, and then followed suit by punching out Torres for the final out of the game. With that, for tonight at least, the Mets were the best team in New York.

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What’s WPA?

Big Mets winner: Pete Alonso, +14.0% WPA
Big Mets loser: Mark Canha, -6.9% WPA
Mets pitchers: +15.9% WPA
Mets hitters: +34.1% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Eduardo Escobar two-run homer in the first, +19.3% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Aaron Judge solo homer in the first, -11.0% WPA