ST. LOUIS — Taijuan Walker allowed one hit in seven innings and the Mets scored three runs on bases-loaded walks to beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 4-1, on Thursday.
Walker (2-1) struck out eight and walked none as the Mets salvaged a split after dropping the first two of the four-game series in St. Louis. The Mets won despite leaving 17 runners on base, tying a team record for a nine-inning game.
“It’s just get strike one,” Walker said. “Once I get strike one, I feel like I’m in control, and I feel like I did a good job of doing that today and just really pounding the strike zone. I feel like I could throw everything for strikes when I needed to. Even when I got behind, I was able to throw a changeup or something just to go off the fastball and get them to fly or ground out.”
Walker set the tone by striking out the side in the first inning. He retired the final 18 batters he faced after Paul DeJong reached on a fielder’s choice and throwing error that set up the Cardinals’ lone run in the second.
“He was in attack mode, pitch one,” Mets catcher James McCann said of Walker. “Every time we need to go over things for a game that’s one of the big things he talks about: attack, attack, attack.”
Trevor May struck out two in a perfect eighth and Edwin Diaz pitched around a pair of hits in the ninth to earn his fourth save.
The Mets scored twice in the fifth without a hit. Pete Alonso reached on an error and Cardinals pitchers John Gant and Kodi Whitley combined to walk the next four batters as the Mets took a 2-1 lead.
The Mets tacked on two more runs in the eighth courtesy of another bases-loaded walk from right-hander Jake Woodford to Alonso and an R.B.I. single by Dominic Smith.
“You see the guys ahead of you taking tough pitches and taking their walks, and as you walk in the box you shrink your zone, don’t want to swing at the really good pitch, you want to force the pitcher to come to you. And if he ends up dotting, he ends up dotting,” McCann said. “And we did a really good job of laying off some tough pitches and handing the baton off to the next guy.”
Gant struggled with his control all game, needing 98 pitches to get through four and a third innings. He walked six and struck out five as St. Louis dropped its second straight after having won six in a row.
“I felt comfortable, felt fine, felt strong, you know, just threw too many non-competitive pitches and some of those borderline calls were balls, just didn’t go my way,” Gant said. “But not here to make excuses, I got to bear down and throw more strikes.”
Gant (2-3) stranded eight baserunners in the first four innings, including wiggling out of a bases-load jam in the third by striking out Smith looking and getting a dazzling catch in foul territory by left fielder Justin Williams on Kevin Pillar’s drive.
The Mets had at least one baserunner in every inning, aided by 11 total walks.
“Today we just had a really good overall approach,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said. “We could have scored more runs, but enough to get the win with the Walker performance.”
La Russa Admits Error
Hall of Famer Tony La Russa developed a reputation as a master strategist while managing the Oakland Athletics and the St. Louis Cardinals to a total of three World Series championships.
His second tenure with the Chicago White Sox is off to a bumpy start. And a decision in Wednesday’s 1-0 loss at Cincinnati will only raise more doubts about whether he is the right person for the job.
La Russa acknowledged he was unaware of a rule that would have allowed him to use Jose Abreu as the automatic runner at second base rather than closer Liam Hendriks in the 10th inning.
“I’ll re-read that situation,” he said. “I’m guessing you know the rules there. Now, I know.”
The pandemic rule states the runner must be the batter preceding that inning’s leadoff hitter, but there is an exception if it would be the pitcher.