Taijuan Walker was flying high earlier this season as he performed well enough to earn a spot on the All-Star team for the first time in his career, but since the second half of the season began things have not been the same.
Taijuan Walker on tonight's performance and how he's been feeling recently:
"I feel like I'm in a really good place right now" pic.twitter.com/ufaHzklrAO
— SNY (@SNYtv) August 15, 2021
Taijuan Walker’s year on the mound has given off very similar vibes to what his New York Met team has gone through this season. They were on top of the National League East mountain for a majority of the season until recently when the Atlanta Braves and Philadelphia Phillies both finished walking them down and jumped ahead of them in the standings.
— New York Mets (@Mets) July 14, 2021
Before the All-Star break Walker was considered the best free agency signing in all of baseball. His ERA was in the Top 10 amongst all starting pitchers as he and Black Knight rotation mate Marcus Stroman held the Mets rotation up while former Cy Young winner Jacob DeGrom was out with injury.
Walker gave up a homer in his only inning during the All-Star game, and maybe that put a crack in his armor.
The Pirates jumped out to a 6-0 lead over the Mets after this play and Luis Rojas was HEATED 😳
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) July 18, 2021
Walker’s first start after the All-Star game saw the floodgates burst early. The bases were loaded in the first inning when the pirates hit a little dribbler just barely passed home plate.
Walker thought the ball was foul, and he picked it up and threw it towards the dugout. It turned out to be one of the worst bad luck moments of the year, as the umpire called the ball fair. Walker argued his case, but the only problem was he decided to do so while Pirates continued to circle around the bases.
In the end, three runners would score on the play and Walker’s day would come to an end after only recording one out, allowing four hits, walking four batters and giving up five earned runs.
6 straight retired by Taijuan Walker to start the night! pic.twitter.com/jKCURmoFtk
— SNY (@SNYtv) August 14, 2021
The Mets would come back to win that game but since then the Mets have lost five straight games started by Walker. Over that stretch he has an ERA of 7.94, but that number is a little inflated as Walker has put up better showings on the mound during his last two starts going 6.2 innings of two hit baseball, allowing only one run against the reigning World Series Champion Dodgers and going 6 innings allowing three runs on four hits against their National League East rivals, the Phillies.
More pressure has fallen onto Walker’s shoulders as questions about whether or not the Mets will get Jacob DeGrom back for the final stretch run of the season.
Another reason Walker’s struggles have become more noticeable is due to the ineptitude of the Mets offense. They own the third worst batting average in the National League and find themselves in the bottom half of the rankings when it comes to various batting statistics, including on base percentage, slugging percentage and strikeouts.
It’s difficult to pitch when you know that if you give up more than a few runs, the game could be over, but Walker pitched like an ace to begin the year, so now he has ace expectations every time he takes the bump.
Entering Tuesday, the Mets sat 3.5 games back of the Braves for first place in the National League East. Winning the division is more than likely their only chance at seeing the playoffs as they are 6.5 games back for the final wild card spot.
The road will not get any easier for Walker in the coming days. He gets his rematch against the Los Angeles Dodgers when he toes the rubber against them Thursday night, and after that each start will become more and more crucial as the hunt for October will be on full go once September comes around.