CHICAGO — It might be time for another round of J.D. Davis defense discourse.
Davis committed two throwing errors, one of which was a major turning point, in the Mets’ 3-1 loss to the Cubs on Tuesday night, an all-around poor showing in which the third baseman was far from alone in his blameworthiness.
The Mets (7-5) mustered only six hits, including a home run by Davis. They loaded the bases with one out in the ninth, but Brandon Nimmo (strikeout) and Francisco Lindor (first-pitch groundout) didn’t come through. Righthander Taijuan Walker allowed three runs (two earned) and walked six batters in 3 2/3 innings.
Frustration — seemingly with plate umpire John Libka — mounted throughout. After getting pulled from the game, Walker was ejected, mouthing off to Libka as he returned to the dugout. Manager Luis Rojas, in his first ejection as a manager, followed in the sixth after a borderline called third strike on Michael Conforto.
Walker said he "was just frustrated with myself." Rojas felt Libka wasn’t calling a fair strike zone for both teams.
"That’s where the frustration came in," Rojas said. "That’s why the argument started happening. That’s why Taijuan got thrown out. A couple innings later, I argued the same way because I thought that wasn’t a call we were getting."
The game changed, though, after Davis’ first error. Walker was about to get through the third inning without allowing a hit when Willson Contreras sent a routine grounder to third base. Davis’ throw to first baseman Pete Alonso was low, and Eric Sogard (leadoff walk) scored from second.
Davis, whom the Mets considered replacing over the offseason, said he had trouble gripping the ball because it was cold out (36 degrees at game time). He tried to one-hop it to Alonso but threw it a little too hard, and the hop occurred too close to first base.
"It’s not my first error I’ve ever made at third," Davis said. "It’s probably not going to be the last one."
At the moment of Davis’ error, Walker had thrown 2 2/3 innings with zero hits, zero runs, two walks and five strikeouts. That took 46 pitches.
After Davis’ error, Walker threw one inning with two hits, three runs, four walks and two strikeouts. That took 45 pitches — eight of which he needed to finish the third inning, a direct result of Davis’ goof.
Walker didn’t do himself any favors in the fourth, though. With two outs, he allowed back-to-back singles and three consecutive walks, including to opposing pitcher Jake Arrieta, a career .164 hitter. That ended Walker's night.
"I just lost a feel for the strike zone," Walker said. "I was kind of all over the place."
Arrieta held the Mets to one run in five innings, three hits and three walks. The run came on Davis’ solo shot, a no-doubter of a blast to left-centerfield.
All of that happened in winterlike conditions at Wrigley Field.
"The big thing is you just have to get over it mentally," said catcher James McCann, who before joining the Mets played in cold-weather cities Detroit and Chicago. "If you focus on it mentally, it will affect you physically."
McCann’s trick: Vaseline on his bare arms. He learned that during his White Sox days, when he and teammates asked members of the Chicago Bears how they handle it.
"Basically, it’s a layer that protects your skin," he said.
Similar conditions are expected for Wednesday night. According to Rojas, that won’t stop the Mets from working out on the field prior to the game — something they haven’t done in about a week because of rain and cold.
"We gotta get out there on the field," Rojas said. "That’s something we plan on doing, regardless of what weather we have, and work on our defense."
Sign up for Newsday’s Mets Messages for updates directly to your phone via text, free with a Newsday digital subscription. Learn more at newsday.com/metstext.