Buck Showalter was pitching praise at Taijuan Walker before Friday night’s game at Citi Field, and deservedly so. Walker has done a lot of good work on the mound this season.
The ensuing outing didn’t qualify under that heading. In fact, it was Walker’s worst work among his 19 starts.
In the second game of this important five-game series against second-place Atlanta, Walker was charged with eight earned runs and seven hits. He worked one inning plus four batters. That will hurt your ERA a bit.
The Mets are a tough out, though. They worked on that eight-run mathematics problem while the bullpen held Atlanta to one run the rest of the way, but they couldn’t catch up.
Eddie Rosario homered and drove in four, Ronald Acuña Jr. tied his career high with four hits and Atlanta dealt the Mets a 9-6 loss to cut their NL East lead to 3 1⁄2 games.
“Just wasn’t a good day for me,” Walker said. “I didn’t have my best stuff. Just one of those starts. I don’t want it to happen in a big series like this, but it did. And I’m going to move on.”
The righty entered with a 2.79 ERA and left with a 3.45 ERA.
“He’s been one of our best pitchers and will be again,” Showalter said after the Mets’ franchise-record streak of allowing five or fewer runs was snapped at 27 games.
Walker (9-3) found trouble just two batters into the game. Dansby Swanson belted a double to left-center.
Matt Olson was next. Walker caught a cleat on an 0-and-1 pitch and bounced the ball. He appeared to grab at his right hip after that. The athletic trainer, as well as Showalter and pitching coach Jeremy Hefner, came out to check on him.
Walker basically said afterward that it wasn’t an issue. Two pitches later, Olson lined an RBI double to left.
Walker then hit Austin Riley with a pitch and Rosario sent a 1-and-2 splitter into the rightfield stands.
In the second, Michael Harris II rocked a leadoff homer to left. Acuña singled, stole second and scored when Swanson poked a single into right.
Olson followed with a single, putting runners at the corners and ending Walker’s nightmare of a night. Trevor Williams, who pitched four innings, allowed the two inherited runners to cross.
“I just didn’t have command of my fastball today,” Walker said. “My splitter was up . . . I left balls over the middle of the plate and they hit me hard today . . . My velo wasn’t very good today, either.”
The Mets (67-39) got one back in the bottom half on Brandon Nimmo’s RBI single, but they stalled after getting back in the neighborhood with four in the fifth.
Jeff McNeil, who cracked a solo shot in the ninth, had an RBI single to knock out Ian Anderson after 4 2⁄3 innings.
Pinch hitter Darin Ruf greeted Dylan Lee by slicing a two-run double to right in his first at-bat since coming over from San Francisco.
Pinch hitter Eduardo Escobar singled home Ruf and it was 8-5.
“I think any time you play a division opponent, especially one that you’re really close to in the standings, you try to do anything you can to win every single game every single night,” Ruf said. “I think [Showalter] felt like that was a good opportunity to try to get some runs. Luckily, I came through and Escobar came through and made it a little closer of a game.”