Taijuan Walker can help his chances of making his first All-Star team when he takes the mound for the New York Mets on Thursday night in the opener of a four-game series against the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates.
Walker (7-3, 2.44 ERA) is having the best first half of his nine-year major league career, sitting eighth in the National League in ERA and 12th in WHIP (1.01).
He is coming off a win at Yankee Stadium to start his month of July, and he has the backing of one of the premier pitchers in the majors, teammate Jacob deGrom, who has opted to skip the All-Star Game so he can spend time with his family.
“Hopefully, Tai gets in there and takes my place,” deGrom said upon announcing his decision to forego the All-Star Game while the Mets were in between a doubleheader split with the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday.
Walker said after his most recent start that he would relish the opportunity to make the NL All-Star team, but helping the Mets stay atop the NL East is the priority this week.
“If I make it, awesome,” he said. “But if I don’t, then I will have four days off to spend with my family and recharge for the second half.”
Walker lost his only career start against Pittsburgh on May 13, 2017, allowing four runs (three earned in six innings).
The Pirates plan to send JT Brubaker to the mound Thursday.
Brubaker (4-8, 4.09) is 0-4 in his past five starts, though the Pirates’ offense managed a total of only nine runs in those games.
He has never faced the Mets in his two-year major league career.
The last-place Pirates are 19 games behind the first-place Brewers in the NL Central and have begun taking a look at other players who potentially could improve their roster.
They acquired first baseman John Nogowski from the St. Louis Cardinals for cash considerations on Saturday, and he’s already had an impact.
Nogowski was 2-for-22 over parts of two seasons with St. Louis, but he is 7-for-12 (.583) with three runs through his first three games for the Pirates.
He went 4-for-5 on Wednesday and even pitched a scoreless ninth inning in Pittsburgh’s 14-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves.
“Whatever I need to do to make myself valuable, I’m going to do it,” Nogowski said. “Hopefully, that’s not pitching too much. Hopefully, that’s with the bat and with my glove. But anything I can do to help us win, if that means we can save a reliever (Thursday) in this next series, let’s absolutely do it.”
Nogowski’s opportunity on the mound arose after the reliever before him, Duane Underwood Jr., gave up seven runs and eight hits in one inning.
Underwood had been solid in long relief for the Pirates this season, previously throwing 3 1/3 scoreless innings against the Brewers on Saturday. He was uncharacteristically off on Wednesday, though, prompting a visit from manager Derek Shelton and the trainer to make sure he was OK.
“I just talked to him a little bit,” Shelton said. “He seemed like he was a little bit gassed. That’s one of those outings that we just need to throw away for him because he’s done a pretty good job for us.”
–Field Level Media