Taijuan Walker cruised into the seventh inning Wednesday for the Mets, protecting a one-run lead, with a low pitch count and only one hit and one run charged to his name.
An error and a bloop single later, Walker’s night was over. The decision immediately backfired and dealt the Mets their latest blow.
Manager Luis Rojas called on lefty Aaron Loup to face Brandon Crawford, a left-handed hitter. Crawford drilled Loup’s first pitch for a two-run double that lifted the Giants to a 3-2 win at Citi Field.
“We went with the matchup,” Rojas said. “I know it’s controversial because it went the other way at the end of the day, but for us, the best matchup against Brandon Crawford out of any of our pitchers is Aaron Loup.”
Walker, who was not happy upon seeing Rojas walk out to pull him following just 74 pitches, threw a water bottle in the dugout after Crawford’s go-ahead double.
“I was pretty surprised,” Walker said. “Obviously, I want to stay in the game, but it’s not my call to make. I show emotions. It is what it is.”
Chants of “Fire Rojas” picked up steam, and soon the Mets (61-65) had lost for the 10th time in their last 12 games, falling a season-worst four games below .500 and seven games back of the Braves for first place in the NL East. The Mets hit into five double plays and left the bases loaded twice, while poor baserunning also factored into their demise.
The Giants (82-44) invited the Mets back into the game in the bottom of the ninth, dropping a foul pop-up and a fly ball to left-center field to put runners on first and second with one out. After Francisco Lindor popped out, to a round of boos, Brandon Nimmo drew a walk to load the bases. But Pete Alonso could not deliver, popping out to end the game.
“We’re just that one big hit away from breaking things open and stuff,” Walker said. “I know we’ve been saying that the last couple weeks, it doesn’t sound good to hear it every single day, but the guys show up ready to play every day.”
Kris Bryant, whose solo homer off Walker was the Giants’ only offense through six innings, led off the seventh by reaching on a fielding error by third baseman Jonathan Villar. Alex Dickerson then hit a bloop into shallow right-center field that fell between Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto, prompting Walker’s early departure.
Loup entered the night having held lefties to a .159 batting average (10-for-63, no extra-base hits), but Crawford wasted no time in pouncing on him.
“To come in and make a bad pitch right out of the gate … definitely hurts,” Loup said. “I’d rather give up two of my own runs than two of anybody else’s.”
The Mets had just taken their first lead of the game, 2-1, in the sixth inning on an RBI double by Dominic Smith.
Earlier, the Mets wasted a prime opportunity to take the lead in the second inning off Johnny Cueto. With runners on first and second and no outs, Villar hit a line drive to center field. It hung up long enough for Mike Yastrzemski to catch the ball, at which point Javier Baez was rounding third base. Yastrzemski easily threw to second for the double play, and three pitches later, the inning was over without the Mets scoring a run.
Conforto was doubled off first base in the fourth inning after Baez smoked a line drive to third that Bryant snared.
“Those baserunning mistakes cost us,” said Rojas, who described Baez and Conforto as overly aggressive.
A Bryant error allowed the Mets to tie the score 1-1 in the fifth inning, but they couldn’t take full advantage as McNeil popped up to leave the bases loaded.
“Guys are frustrated,” Rojas said. “They know we could have had this game.”