ST. LOUIS – Taijuan Walker allowed a hit in seven innings and the Mets scored three runs on base-packed walks to beat the St. Louis Cardinals 4-1 on Thursday.
Walker (2-1) struck eight and didn’t go when the Mets saved a split after dropping the first two of the four-game series in St. Louis. The Mets won, although 17 runners remained on the base, setting a team record for a nine-inning game.
“It’s just strike one,” said Walker. “As soon as I get a strike I feel like I’m in control and I feel like I did well today and just really hit the strike zone. I feel like I could throw anything for strikes if I have to. Even when I got back I was able to toss some change or something else just to get off the fastball and get them to fly or land. “
Walker set the tone by knocking out the side in the first inning. He retired the final 18 batters he faced after Paul DeJong made an outfield player choice and threw a mistake that sparked the Cardinals’ lone run in the second half.
“He was in attack mode, pitch one,” Mets catcher James McCann said of Walker. “Every time we have to go over things for a game, it’s one of the big things he talks about: attack, attack, attack.”
Trevor May scored two hits in a perfect eighth place and Edwin Diaz hit two in the ninth game to make his fourth save.
The Mets scored two goals in their fifth game without a hit. Pete Alonso made a mistake and Cardinals pitchers John Gant and Kodi Whitley went together the next four batters as the Mets took a 2-1 lead.
The Mets kicked off two more runs in the eighth courtesy of another base-laden walk from right-handed Jake Woodford to Alonso and an RBI single from Dominic Smith.
“You see the guys in front of you taking hard pitches and taking their walks, and when you go in the box you narrow your zone, you don’t want to swing in the really good place, you want to force the jug to come to you. And when it punctures, it ends up puncturing, ”said McCann. “And we did a really good job putting down some tough pitches and handing the baton to the next man.”
Gant struggled with his control throughout the game and needed 98 pitches to survive four and a third innings. He went six and hit five when St. Louis dropped its second straight after winning six in a row.
“I was feeling good, feeling good, feeling strong, you know, just throwing too many uncompetitive places and some of those border calls were balls that just weren’t going my way,” Gant said. “But not here to make excuses, I have to hold myself down and throw more strikes.”
Gant (2-3) has stranded eight baserunners in the first four innings, including wobbling out of a base cargo jam in the third by catching Smith looking for a scintillating catch in lazy territory by left fielder Justin Williams on Kevin Pillars Drive.
The Mets had at least one base runner in each inning, supported by a total of 11 walks.
“Overall we had a really good approach today,” said Mets manager Luis Rojas. “We could have done more runs, but enough to take the win with the Walker performance.”
La Russa admits mistakes
Hall of Famer Tony La Russa developed a reputation as a master strategist while directing the Oakland Athletics and the St. Louis Cardinals for a total of three world championships.
His second term with the Chicago White Sox got off to a bumpy start. And a decision on Wednesday’s 1-0 defeat in Cincinnati will only raise doubts as to whether he is the right person for the job.
La Russa admitted that he knew of no rule that would have allowed him to use Jose Abreu as the automatic runner on the second base instead of bringing Liam Hendriks closer in the 10th inning.
“I will read this situation again,” he said. “I suppose you know the rules there. Now I know.”
The pandemic rule states that the runner must be the batsman who precedes the inning’s leadoff hitter, but there is an exception if it would be the pitcher.