ANAHEIM, Calif. — Taijuan Walker was the hardest-working pitcher on the Mets’ marathon West Coast swing that concluded Sunday night.
Seldom does a pitcher receive three starts on the same road trip, but there was Walker facing the Angels to bookend a journey that began with him on the mound at Dodger Stadium on June 2.
“I feel like that’s rare,” Walker said after the Mets won 4-1 at Angel Stadium to salvage a 5-5 road trip. “But I wanted it. I wanted the task. I wanted to face the three best teams and go out there and show what I could do.”
This was among his best. Walker struck out 10 batters and walked only one over six innings in which he allowed one earned run on six hits. It was a rebound from a shaky start against the Padres in which Walker allowed four earned runs over six innings. To start the trip, Walker surrendered two earned runs over 5 ²/₃ innings against the Dodgers.
The Angels connected for four hits against Walker in the first inning, but scored only once. After that inning, Walker adjusted.
“I think in that first inning they might have had a little tip on me,” Walker said, adding that he may have had the same issue in San Diego. To rectify the pitch tipping he held his glove closer to him after Sunday’s first inning.
Seth Lugo pitched 1 ¹/₃ scoreless innings in relief before Edwin Diaz got the final five outs for his 12th save in 15 chances. Diaz entered in the eighth with a runner on first base and struck out Mike Trout. After Diaz walked Anthony Rendon, he struck out Jared Walsh on a 101.6 mph fastball. Diaz then struck out the side in the ninth.
“[Diaz] had his big-boy stuff today,” Pete Alonso said. “His fastball was electric and he was dotting up corners. It sucks for other hitters.”
Diaz had pitched only twice previously on the trip and Monday’s day off afforded Buck Showalter the opportunity to extend his closer. Diaz pitched for the Mariners in the AL West earlier in his career, so his showdown with Trout was hardly a novelty.
“I know how to pitch him,” Diaz said. “I got a good result against him and today I did my job.”
Alonso provided the Mets with an insurance run the next inning by blasting his NL-leading 18th homer of the season. The blast was Alonso’s second in as many games.
Starling Marte, who returned to the lineup after missing three games with left quadriceps soreness, stroked an RBI double in the third inning against Patrick Sandoval that gave the Mets their first run. Brandon Nimmo singled leading off the inning before Marte hit a shot to right-center that brought in the run.
JD Davis’ solo homer in the fourth gave the Mets a 2-1 lead. The blast was Davis’ second this season and first since April 24.
Marte kept running from second on Alonso’s grounder that Matt Duffy smothered on the outfield grass in the seventh and scored the Mets’ third run. It came after Marte walked and advanced to second on the back end of a double-steal attempt — the lead runner, Nimmo, was nailed at third.
Trout — who homered twice the previous night in his return to the lineup from groin soreness that cost him three games — delivered an RBI single in the first that gave the Angels a 1-0 lead. Brandon Marsh had doubled leading off the game for the Angels. Rendon hit into a double play or the inning could have been worse for Walker, who allowed consecutive singles to Walsh and Duffy later in the frame.
Walker allowed an infield single to Marsh leading off the third, but that was eradicated by a pickoff at first base. The Angels put two runners on base in the fourth, but Walker struck out Tyler Wade to escape before retiring the side in order in the fifth and sixth innings.
Showalter was asked what he learned about his team on this long trip.
“I think more importantly it reaffirms what I think,” he said. “I have thought since the spring we have got a chance to have a really good group of people that care about competing.”