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Taijuan Walker's woes continue as Mets fall to Marlins

Mets starting pitcher Taijuan Walker takes off his

Mets starting pitcher Taijuan Walker takes off his cap after giving up a double to the Marlins' Jesus Aguilar during the first inning on Tuesday in Miami. Credit: AP/Lynne Sladky

MIAMI — MIAMI — The Mets’ list of problems, featured prominently in a 5-4 loss to the Marlins on Tuesday, is growing.

Taijuan Walker struggled again, allowing four runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings. That raised his ERA to 3.86, completing his second-half regression to his career norms.

He entered this season, his first with the Mets, with a lifetime 3.84 ERA.

The lineup had one hit in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position, an RBI double from James McCann with two outs in the ninth. Brandon Drury grounded out to second for the final out, stranding pinch runner Albert Almora Jr., the would-be tying run, on second.

 

Altogether, it meant another mediocre night in a season full of them. Yes, the Mets (55-51) have lost five of their past six games, including two in a row to Miami (46-61). But their underperformance is deeper than that. Over the past seven weeks, they are 20-26.

The Mets’ lead over the Phillies in the NL East has dwindled to 1 1/2 games, the smallest since May 25, while Atlanta is 2 1/2 back. They head to Philadelphia for a three-game series this weekend.

"We have to get our act together soon," Mets owner Steve Cohen said in a fifth-inning tweet, in which he asked followers to keep him updated on the game because he was out to dinner with one of his daughters, Sophia Cohen.

Almost all the damage against Walker came before the end of the third inning. Rookie catcher Alex Jackson, a trade-deadline acquisition, walloped his first career home run in the second. Isan Diaz went deep in the third. Rookie outfielder Bryan De La Cruz, another newbie as of last week, added a scorched two-out, two-run single up the middle after Walker loaded the bases (walking two batters) for his first career RBIs.

Walker rebounded to retire nine of his final 10 hitters, salvaging this outing as the statistical best of his four since the All-Star break.

"I think I’m going in the right direction, honestly," Walker said. "That third inning got away from me a little bit. But I felt good. I felt like I finished really strong at the end."

Among Walker’s issues: long balls. He allowed six in 16 games before the break but seven in his past three starts.

Tensions flared as the Mets neared another loss. Following his flyout to end the top of the eighth, a yelling Javier Baez was held back by Marlins first baseman Jesus Aguilar and several Mets. Manager Luis Rojas said Baez was upset with something said by Miami reliever Richard Bleier.

Rojas was ejected by plate umpire Stu Scheurwater in the seventh inning for arguing about a called third strike on Brandon Nimmo (which appeared to catch plenty of the plate). It was the fourth ejection of the season for Rojas, who had none last year in his pandemic-shortened debut season.

He blamed his frustration on a series of iffy calls throughout the night. "Arguing balls and strikes will get you ejected," Rojas said. "I just couldn’t stop."

The Mets had plenty of chances against righthander Nick Neidert, who allowed three runs in 5 1/3 innings, and eventually capitalized on some. Dominic Smith had two sacrifice flies, J.D. Davis an RBI double.

That was it until they made it closer later, as they so often do. The Mets have said for months that their offense will click eventually. They’re still waiting. "Right now, we just gotta start hitting," Rojas said.

McCann added: "We’ve been able to put together some rallies late. But it would be nice to do it early."

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