LOS ANGELES — The Mets began their most important series of the year thus far by playing mostly crisp defense behind a solid pitching performance from their starter. In a lineup without the red-hot Francisco Lindor, it was the Amazin’s bats that failed to click against a strong Dodgers pitching staff.
The Amazin’s mustered just three hits all night against four Dodger arms in their 2-0 loss to Los Angeles in the series opener on Thursday night at Chavez Ravine. One of those three hits came off the bat of Luis Guillorme, who was batting third and playing shortstop in place of the sidelined Lindor. The Mets clearly missed their RBI-amassing shortstop, who was out of Thursday’s lineup after jamming his middle finger on his hotel doors. The majority of Mets hitters were blanked by Dodgers starter Tony Gonsolin (6-0, 1.59 ERA) and the National League’s best bullpen (3.19 ERA).
The Mets (35-18) on Thursday were shutout for the first time this season. They were the last team in the majors to avoid being goose-egged, having played 52 games without getting shut out for the fourth-longest streak in franchise history. The longest streak was accomplished by the 1986 championship Mets, who were blanked in their 86th game. The 1993 Mets were shut out in their 59th game, and the ‘94 team was shut out in its 58th game.
“It’s impressive and we should give credit to ourselves for going 50-plus, almost 60 games without being shut out,” Starling Marte said through interpreter Alan Surial. “But at the end of the day you have to tip your cap to them for doing a good job and we’re just going to continue to go out there and play hard.”
Taijuan Walker was able to limit Los Angeles’ damage to one run in the fifth inning thanks to heads-up defense from Mets infielders. After four shutout innings, Walker allowed three consecutive singles in the fifth, including an RBI single to Mookie Betts. The inning seemed like it was going to get away from Walker, who had retired 13 of his 16 batters faced up to that point, before a ground ball from Freddie Freeman changed the outlook.
With runners on first and second, Jeff McNeil fielded Freeman’s grounder and threw to first for the out. Then the Mets caught Gavin Lux, who advanced to third on Freeman’s grounder, in a rundown between home. Using all instinct and quick thinking, the Amazin’s relay went 4-3-6-2-5 as Eduardo Escobar nabbed Lux at third with a quick tag for the inning-ending double play.
“They got a good lineup, one through nine,” Walker said. “They got Justin Turner and (Cody) Bellinger hitting at the bottom of the lineup. One through nine, you can’t take any breaks. You really have to attack, especially with runners on. They’re aggressive. They put the ball in play. Had a couple of steals off me. It’s a tough lineup, and you always gotta be on your toes with them.”
The Mets only have to face former NL East foes Freeman (Braves) and Trea Turner (Nationals) in seven games this season versus the usual 19, when both were playing in the division. Freeman signed with the Dodgers this past offseason, while Turner was traded to Los Angeles by the Nationals at last year’s deadline. Freeman entered Thursday with a .305/.390/.499 career slashline across 12 years against the Mets, while Turner entered the series with an .829 OPS against them.
At least in the Mets’ first time this season facing Freeman and Turner, Walker kept the former in check through all of his three at-bats against him. Turner went hitless in his first two at-bats against Walker, and notched a leadoff double off him in the sixth. Overall, Walker exited his start during the sixth inning having given up two runs on seven hits, recording two strikeouts and walking one batter in 5.2 innings and 92 pitches.
Despite the effort, Walker took his first loss of the season in his eighth start of the year. His ERA barely moved, representing the lowest (2.88) among non-injured Mets starters.
“Usually that’s good enough for a win,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said of Walker’s performance. “But we didn’t do much against their pitchers tonight. We knew it was going to be a challenge coming in. They were throwing the ball well.”