Taijuan Walker’s best start of season leads Mets to win over Nationals

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Taijuan Walker, with a rested bullpen behind him and an off day coming, realistically only needed to get through five innings or so Sunday.

The Mets got the bonus package.

In his strongest and most efficient start of the season, the right-hander fired seven shutout innings to lead a 4-0 victory over the Nationals at Citi Field. The Mets won two of three in the series to stabilize following a disastrous trip to Wrigley Field in which they were swept three games.

Walker received defensive help on a day he allowed three hits over the seven innings (95 pitches) with two walks and lowered his ERA to 2.14. The strong performance followed a six-walk clunker against the Cubs on Wednesday that lasted only 3 ²/₃ innings.

J.D. Davis and Pete Alonso homered against Patrick Corbin to carry a lineup that still hasn’t gotten completely on track.

Manager Luis Rojas shuffled his lineup to get right-handed bats in the lineup against the lefty Corbin. That meant starts for Jonathan Villar and Albert Almora Jr., leaving Jeff McNeil and Dominic Smith on the bench. The start for Almora was his first of the season.

And his presence was noted in the sixth, when he raced to the fence and snagged Kyle Schwarber’s long drive to center, likely saving the Mets two runs. Francisco Lindor’s glove robbed Yan Gomes of a line-drive single leading off the sixth, and Michael Conforto and Villar executed a perfect relay to Davis that nailed Victor Robles attempting to stretch a double into a triple in the third.

Davis, inserted at cleanup because of his strong career numbers against Corbin, blasted a two-run homer in the first inning to get the Mets started. The homer was Davis’ fourth in 28 career at-bats against Corbin. Alonso, shifted to the No. 2 hole, walked. Davis delivered with two outs.

Conforto just missed a two-run homer in the fourth, but his double behind Davis’ single gave the Mets a rally. James McCann then found the hole between shortstop and third base for an RBI single that extended the Mets’ lead to 3-0. But the Mets left the bases loaded in the inning following a walk to Almora, with Walker and Nimmo striking out in succession.

Corbin was finished in the fifth, after surrendering a leadoff homer to Alonso and single to Lindor. Alonso’s blast, which landed in the black section near the home run apple, was his team-leading fifth and gave the Mets a 4-0 lead. Later in the inning, Schwarber’s strong throw to the plate nailed Lindor attempting to score from third on Conforto’s fly to left field, squelching a potential big inning.

Miguel Castro allowed two singles in the eighth, but escaped by striking out Ryan Zimmerman and Josh Bell in succession. Edwin Diaz pitched a perfect ninth in his first appearance since allowing a walk-off RBI single to Jason Heyward in the 10th inning Thursday.

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