Mets manager Buck Showalter admitted prior to Sunday’s game against the Miami Marlins that Taijuan Walker’s next two starts would be big in deciding whether or not he would be able to sneak on the National League All-Star team ahead of the 2022 Mid-Summer Classic at Dodger Stadium July 19.
Despite the Mets dropping their series finale 2-0, Walker certainly didn’t hurt his case despite not being initially named to the NL roster, which was announced just hours later on Sunday evening.
The 29-year-old right-hander went seven scoreless innings, striking out seven and allowing just three hits in a pitcher’s duel against NL Cy Young favorite Sandy Alcantara.
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“He’s had a competitive gleam in his eye since the day he walked into St. Lucie,” manager Buck Showalter said. “Tai really wants to be a contributor to a really good club.”
He’s been just that through the first half of the season, very much as he was in his first year with the Mets in 2021 which earned him his first-ever All-Star Game appearance.
Walker is 7-2 in 2022 with a 2.63 ERA and a 1.097 WHIP while coaxing 70% of the opposition to make either soft or medium contact against him. Per Fangraphs, 50% of batted balls against Walker this season are grounders.
“I feel confident in everything I have right now, with all my pitches,” Walker said. “I’ve been getting a lot more ground balls this year, and it’s nice because I have a really good defense behind me.”
That ability to create non-threatening contact has allowed Walker to stay on the mound longer, averaging nearly six innings in 14 starts (not including an April 11 start vs. Philadelphia in which he left after two innings due to injury).
Of those 14 starts, four of those have featured at least seven innings of shutout baseball, which is tied for the second-most in Major League Baseball behind only Alcantara.
All the while, he’s thrown more than 100 pitches in a single outing just once.
The All-Star Game always has numerous pitchers bowing out of participation due to their schedules or the desire to get some extra rest, meaning the door for Walker to get to Los Angeles — which is just 70 miles west of where he went to high school in Yucaipa — still a very real possibility.
“Being in LA this year would mean a lot just because it’s close to home,” Walker said. “A lot of friends and family are close by so they would get a chance to come see me play in the All-Star Game.
“I know I’ve got a lot of friends and family there that would be excited. So it would be fun. It would be good. Hopefully, I get in. If not, having the four days off would be nice, too.”
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