NEW YORK — The good vibes returned to Queens after the Mets enjoyed a satisfying victory over their division rivals.
Taijuan Walker pitched seven scoreless innings with four strikeouts and allowed just three hits in the Mets’ 4-0 win over the Nationals on Sunday afternoon. The Mets improved to a 9-8 record on the season after taking two out of three from the Nats’ first visit to Citi Field.
“It was one of those games where I had to go out there and grind and battle and try to find a way to get outs,” Walker said. “I made them put the ball in play and the defense helped me out behind me.”
Walker’s fourth start of the year looked dominant if you just peeked at his final line, but the outing was actually a bit of a grind. He navigated through traffic on the basepaths in the first, third and sixth innings to ultimately escape unscathed. The right-hander ensured his three walks allowed didn’t come back to hurt him. Walker helped himself in the first inning with a smooth pick-off move to nab leadoff hitter Josh Harrison at first base.
Albert Almora, making his first start as a Met, made a game-altering play in the sixth to highlight the club’s solid defensive day. With the Mets leading 4-0 and runners on first and third, Kyle Schwarber launched a deep fly ball to center that had the potential to damage Walker’s otherwise successful afternoon. Almora, not missing a beat, sprinted back toward the 408-foot sign in center, tracked the ball perfectly, leaped and made the catch before colliding into the wall for the final out of the inning.
“Almora probably saved me another inning with that catch,” Walker said.
“Taijuan was throwing an unbelievable game,” Almora said. “With two outs like that… I was going to leave it all out there… Once I noticed it was going to stay in, I definitely knew I was going to catch it.”
Almora stood up, smiling ear-to-ear, as Walker waved his arm up in appreciation for his gem of a catch. The rest of Almora’s teammates waited for him on the field to salute the Mets’ backup outfielder. Almora said he was playing video games with Schwarber on Saturday night, and he expected a text from him to grumble about the robbery.
“Schwarber is one of my best friends,” Almora said. “But at the end of the day the game of baseball comes first.”
“That was such a sexy catch,” Pete Alonso said. “I got so fired up. I hope that’s on ESPN tonight.”
Walker also received help in the third inning from his defense. The righty allowed a leadoff double to Victor Robles that he tried to turn into a triple. A well-timed 9-4-5 relay from Michael Conforto, Jonathan Villar and J.D. Davis negated that possibility. In the fifth, Francisco Lindor left the ground and leaped into the air to snag a liner off the bat of Yan Gomes. The Mets’ key plays on the field Sunday kept the Nats off the scoreboard.
Davis put the Mets on the board early with a two-run home run off Patrick Corbin in the first inning. The dinger, his second of the year, was his fourth career homer off Corbin. Luis Rojas moved Davis up to cleanup against Corbin, anticipating his third baseman’s success against the southpaw. Alonso deposited his fifth home run of the year on a deep 439-foot solo shot to center field to leadoff the fifth inning.
“I thought we played really crisp today,” Alonso said. “We were a really tough team to play against.”
Edwin Diaz pitched the ninth inning in a non-save situation and retired the side with a couple of flyouts before Alonso made a nice stop at first with a flip to the closer for the final out of the game.
“It was gratifying to see the way the guys played today,” the Mets manager said.