Taijuan Walker didn’t just rediscover his All-Star form Saturday night, he also flirted with history against one of the best teams in baseball.
And the Mets let it all go to waste.
Walker started off by throwing 6 ¹/₃ no-hit innings, but the Mets missed another golden chance to beat the Dodgers, falling in extra innings for the second straight game, 2-1 in 10 innings, at Citi Field.
“We’ve been battling,” Walker said. “We’ve been right there every single time. We just haven’t been able to get that extra run across. We haven’t been able to get that shutdown inning. But these are tight games. It’s a playoff team, playoff atmosphere. We’re right there with them.”
Despite showing they can go toe-to-toe with the Dodgers (71-46), the Mets (59-57) lost another game that was there for the taking. They will now try to avoid a sweep Sunday night, against former Nationals ace Max Scherzer, before heading west to face the Giants then the Dodgers again.
“It’s not going to get any easier,” manager Luis Rojas said. “Tomorrow we have another tough game. We’re going to have a lot of those for the remainder of the season. Playing these games, they make us better. We’re bitter because of the two losses, but they make us better.”
Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia and Trevor May all were unavailable because of recent workloads, and Aaron Loup, Miguel Castro and Seth Lugo had pitched earlier in the game, so the Mets turned to Yennsy Diaz to handle the top of the 10th. Diaz gave up a one-out RBI double to Cody Bellinger, scoring automatic runner Corey Seager from second. Diaz came back to strand Bellinger at third by striking out pinch-hitter Justin Turner, but the damage was done.
The Mets went in order in the bottom of the 10th, with James McCann and Brandon Drury striking out and Brandon Nimmo grounding out.
Walker had not allowed a hit entering the seventh inning but lost the no-hitter and the lead on one pitch with one out. Will Smith, who won Friday’s game with a two-run homer in the 10th inning, crushed a solo shot to left field with one out to tie the score 1-1.
The Mets were held in check by the Dodgers’ stud right-hander, Walker Buehler, who entered the night as MLB’s ERA leader at 2.13 and lowered that to 2.09. Michael Conforto took him deep for a 1-0 lead in the fourth, but the Mets mustered just three more hits against him across seven innings. The Dodgers bullpen then retired the final nine Mets in order.
“At the end of the day, we just gotta put up a few more runs,” Conforto said. “It’s nothing crazy. Just a couple more big swings. We’re very capable of that. We feel like we’re getting ready to swing the bats better as we come down the stretch.”
Walker, who recorded a 2.50 ERA across 15 starts entering the All-Star break, posted a 9.86 ERA in his first five starts coming out of it. He began to settle in last Sunday against the Phillies, allowing three solo home runs over six innings in his longest start since June 20.
The right-hander cruised through six innings on 73 pitches Saturday before Smith clobbered an 0-1 slider with one out in the seventh and deposited it into the left field seats to tie the game.
“Just a bad slider,” Walker said.
Walker tried to get out of the inning, but couldn’t, instead putting runners on the corners with two outs — with Rojas getting ejected along the way arguing balls and strikes — before Loup put out the fire.
“It’s definitely frustrating to lose in extra innings both nights, but we’re in both games,” Conforto said. “We’re one swing away from winning both those games. The more we can keep ourselves in those situations — obviously we want to win by three, four, five runs, but when we’re in it till the end, anything can happen.”
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