Mets bullpen melts down against Phillies after Taijuan Walker, Trevor May leave with injuries

Walker left after two innings with a shoulder issue. (Laurence Kesterson/AP)

PHILADELPHIA — The Mets were without their starting pitcher after just two innings against the Phillies, spelling disaster for the bullpen to cover the remaining seven frames. Despite David Peterson carrying the load, his strong effort in relief went from a turning point to a spoiled performance.

Taijuan Walker exited his first start of the year after two perfect innings with what the Mets are calling right shoulder irritation. Then Peterson, who entered in the third, ate the middle innings and dominated the Phillies lineup. But it wasn’t enough. For the second straight day, an ugly eighth inning and a late rally sealed a Mets loss.

“If we would’ve won, it would’ve been on Peterson’s shoulders,” said Mets manager Buck Showalter. “This one hurts. The good thing is we have the chance to take that hurt away tomorrow. That’s the beauty of our game. But sometimes it could be cruel, like tonight.”

Once Trevor May became the second Mets pitcher on Monday night to leave his outing with a physical issue, the bullpen could not stop the bleeding. J.T. Realmuto cranked a two-run home run off left-hander Joely Rodriguez. Then Rhys Hoskins and Didi Gregorius collected back-to-back RBI doubles against Seth Lugo to complete a five-run rally and hand the Mets a 5-4 loss in the series opener at Citizens Bank Park.

Both Walker (right shoulder) and May (possible arm fatigue) will go for MRIs on Tuesday morning. Walker, who added he’s “definitely not” concerned, will undergo his MRI in New York. As for Lugo, Showalter said: “It wasn’t his night.”

“I threw a slider, felt like (my shoulder) got a little irritated,” Walker said. “Just kind of felt sore. Just didn’t feel right. So I came out just to be safe. It’s already feeling better now, but we’ll go for the MRI (Tuesday) just to know what we’re dealing with.”

Peterson’s four scoreless innings were, at least, one bright spot of Monday’s bullpen meltdown. The left-hander threw four scoreless innings and allowed just three hits against a tough Philly lineup. Peterson struck out leadoff hitter Kyle Schwarber both times he faced him, stifling one of the biggest threats in the Phillies order. The southpaw escaped a jam in the fourth, with runners on first and second, thanks to a key double play and impressive defense from second baseman Luis Guillorme.

“My job is to go out there and get outs and whatever capacity that’s at, whatever spot I’m needed, I’m there.” said Peterson, who was called up from Triple-A Syracuse on Saturday after Edwin Diaz was placed on the bereavement list. “I’m ready for it. If you let not making the team out of spring training get to you, you’re not going to be ready when it’s your time. For me, just keep going about my work every single day.”

It was all coming up roses for Peterson, who looked like a different pitcher than the Mets saw last year.

But the same could not be said for May, who took the ball from Peterson in the seventh. He kept the Phillies off the scoreboard in one inning of work, but Showalter asked May to pitch one more, something the right-hander never did in 2021. After walking his first batter of the eighth, May left the game with what he called tricep/bicep soreness that is normal for him around this time of year.[More Mets] Phillies player on Philadelphia during three-error disaster against Mets: ‘I f—ing hate this place’ »

“It’s my version of a dead arm, a little bit,” said May, who was confident he’s not dealing with a serious injury. “It’s all stuff I’ve dealt with before.”

The sudden bout of shoulder irritation is a troubling development for Walker, who also had an early exit from his last start of spring with right knee soreness. It’s possible Walker, while trying not to put weight on his knee in his final exhibition game, wound up putting too much pressure on his arm, leading to that pain popping up in his pitching shoulder. But shoulder and arm injuries are never a good sign.

Shoulder issues aside, Walker’s stuff looked terrific on Monday as he retired all six batters he faced, including strikeouts to Kyle Schwarber, Bryce Harper, Nick Castellanos and Didi Gregorius. Walker went to his splitter almost just as much as he used his fastball and slider. It worked, as Phillies hitters swung and whiffed at all seven splitters Walker offered on Monday.

“Definitely annoyed, frustrating,” Walker said of leaving his start. “I felt really good. I felt like my pitches were working really well. The splitter was really good today. The ball was coming out good. Building up to this, felt good. Knee felt good. So, just kind of annoyed and frustrated about it.”