DENVER — Taijuan Walker aced the tough assignment of pitching at Coors Field in his fifth-career start at the National League’s third-oldest ballpark.
Walker lowered his season ERA to 2.70 and picked up his second win of the season in the Mets’ 2-0 victory over the Rockies on Sunday. He hurled seven shutout innings and limited Colorado batters to five hits and two walks. Walker also posted season highs in strikeouts (six) and pitches (97) in his sixth and best outing of the year thus far. It was only the second shutout from a Mets pitcher at Coors Field, ever.
“I just know what pitches work here,” said Walker, who added he does not like pitching at Coors even though he has enjoyed success at the high-altitude ballpark. “It’s the curveball and the splitter that are two good pitches here.”
The Mets (28-15) improved to 11 series wins after beginning their six-game road trip by taking two out of three against the Rockies. The Mets have a 11-1-1 record in their 13 series so far this season, and are 14-1 following a loss. They packed their lockers and enjoyed a happy flight after the win, traveling to San Francisco to play a three-game set against the Giants that begins on Monday.
In addition to his dominance on the mound, which at one point included 12 consecutive batters retired, Walker received a huge assist from his defense in the seventh inning. With the Mets leading by two runs, Walker permitted a pair of no-out singles in his third time through the Rockies order. But his infield had his back, as Francisco Lindor and Jeff McNeil turned a huge 6-4-3 double play to at least put the first two outs on the board.
But the threat still loomed with a Colorado runner at third base. Luis Guillorme vacuumed a line drive off the bat of catcher Brian Serven and turned in a flashy play at third base for the final out of the seventh. Walker was fired up after Guillorme’s play, which kept the goose eggs on the board for the Rockies.
“It’s hard to shut these guys out, period, but especially in this ballpark,” manager Buck Showalter said. “That was pretty remarkable.”
The Mets collected both of their runs in the sixth inning by capitalizing on the Rockies’ miscue. Brandon Nimmo’s hustle turned a single into three bases when Randal Grichuk committed a fielding error in right field. Francisco Lindor promptly singled Nimmo in with the shortstop’s 24th RBI of the year to break the scoreless game and give the Mets a 1-0 lead. The Amazin’s never looked back, tacking on another run after Jeff McNeil doubled to left to move Lindor up to third. Pete Alonso drove Lindor in on an RBI groundout, and those two runs wound up being the only edge the Mets would need to beat the Rockies.
“That was huge,” Lindor said of Nimmo’s hustle. “We won the game right there.”
Meanwhile, Joely Rodriguez chose a picturesque seat in the house to watch the first four innings of the game. The Mets reliever took a lawn chair, a Red Bull, water, sunflower seeds, and a massage gun and sat in the rock pile in the batter’s eye at straightaway center field. Wearing a hoodie and surrounded by vegetation and greenery, Rodriguez sat directly in the sun after what had been a frigid weekend in the Mile High City. Eventually, he was kicked out of his tranquil spot by a Coors Field security guard, so he packed up his belongings sometime during the fourth inning and retreated to the bullpen at Coors Field.
Rodriguez entered the game in the eighth inning with two outs and runners on first second in a two-run game. In one of his shortest relief outings of the year, Rodriguez induced a line out to Ryan McMahon on his first and only pitch of the day to end the frame. Perhaps the peace and quiet at that batter’s eye cove helped Rodriguez, after all.
“I got to the bullpen, I took a chair and I put it right there because I wanted to see a game from center field,” Rodriguez said. “I didn’t think it was going to be a big deal that I was sitting out there. I just went out there to relax and it was a good view.”