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Mets shut down Nationals as stellar defense backs Taijuan Walker

Albert Almora Jr. of the Mets makes a

Albert Almora Jr. of the Mets makes a catch to end the sixth inning against the Nationals at Citi Field on Sunday. Credit: Jim McIsaac

There was no recorded save in the Mets’ 4-0 victory over the Nationals on Sunday at Citi Field.

The win went to Taijuan Walker, who went seven innings. Edwin Diaz got the final out.

But the save should have gone to Albert Almora Jr. and Michael Conforto and Jonathan Villar and Francisco Lindor and Pete Alonso and even J.D. Davis.

The Mets, who have been much (and fairly) maligned for their early-season defense, turned Sunday’s game into a glove story, with top-notch defensive plays galore.

 

Walker was good, but he wouldn’t have been zero runs good if not for Almora saving two runs by sprinting about half a mile to catch Kyle Schwarber’s drive with a leap against the centerfield wall for the final out of the sixth.

"Almora made a sick catch," Walker (1-1, 2.14 ERA) said after his first victory as a Met. "Probably saved me another inning with that catch."

Almora and Schwarber are former Cubs teammates and, according to Almora, played video games together on Saturday night.

"Schwarber’s one of my best friends," said Almora, who made his first start as a Met. "But at the end of the day, the game of baseball comes first."

Alonso called the catch "sexy" and said it was "probably one of the best catches I’ve ever seen."

"If it was in the ballpark, I knew I was going to catch it," Almora said. "I can’t do anything if it’s really over the wall. Once I noticed it was going to stay in, I definitely knew I was going to catch it."

Walker might not have been around in the sixth if not for other plays, such as a stellar Conforto-to-Villar-to-Davis relay in the third and Lindor’s leaping grab of a fifth-inning liner on the outfield grass that wasn’t as important but still was darn pretty.

"I just want to give it up to the defense," Walker said. "They really helped me out today. I didn’t have my best stuff, but they came through for me."

Walker allowed three hits, walked three and struck out four in a 95-pitch effort. He picked off Josh Harrison at first base after a leadoff single in the first.

Davis (3-for-4, two RBIs) hit a two-run homer in the first and Alonso absolutely crushed a solo shot to center in the fifth as the Mets (9-8) won the rubber match of the three-game series.

Davis, batting cleanup, opened the scoring off Patrick Corbin (0-3, 10.47) with his second home run of the season and his fourth in 27 at-bats against the lefthander. Davis, who has been the Mets’ worst defender, is batting .414 with a 1.175 OPS.

Manager Luis Rojas juggled his lineup against Corbin. Alonso and Lindor flipped in the two- and three-holes, and Villar and Almora started instead of Jeff McNeil and Dom Smith.

Walker wasn’t sharp in the first three innings, allowing five baserunners. After the pickoff in the first, Walker walked Yadiel Hernandez and threw a wild pitch before seeing the inning end when Villar caught Josh Bell’s screaming liner in short rightfield.

Victor Robles led off the third with a double to right-center but was nailed at third on perfect throws from Conforto and Villar and a quick tag by Davis.

"It was just perfect," Rojas said. "You use that video to teach."

Walker then walked Corbin on four pitches and, one out later, gave up a single to Hernandez. The inning ended when Trea Turner took Conforto to the warning track.

"My goal is to go out there and pound the strike zone and make them put the ball in play and make my defense work," Walker said. "That’s what they did today."

The Mets made it 3-0 in the fourth on an RBI single by James McCann. Alonso hit a 439-foot bomb to the left of the Home Run Apple in the fifth for his fifth home run.

And, to conclude the theme, Alonso made a diving catch of Yan Gomes’ grounder and flipped to Diaz for the game’s final out. The flip was high, but Diaz snared it.

On this day, of course he did.

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