Mets come up just short in loss to elite Padres

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SAN DIEGO — After feasting on underperforming competition or bad teams for the last two-plus weeks, the Mets faced a big boy Thursday night and were promptly smacked down a notch.

The hit parade of the last several days stopped and Taijuan Walker’s performance was among his shakiest of the season in the Mets’ 4-3 loss to the Padres at Petco Park to begin a four-game series.

The Mets, who lost for the second time in three games, managed only six hits, as Jonathan Villar (right hamstring tightness) was absent from the starting lineup and Pete Alonso received a rest, in a precautionary measure, after starting three straight games off the injured list.

Walker lasted five innings and surrendered four runs, three earned, on seven hits and four walks over five innings before manager Luis Rojas turned the game over to Jacob Barnes in the sixth. It marked only the second time this season that Walker surrendered more than two earned runs in a start.

Billy McKinney’s two-out RBI triple off the right-field fence in the eighth gave the Mets renewed hope as they sliced the Padres’ lead to 4-3. But Brandon Drury was then retired to strand the tying run at third.

Fernando Tatis Jr. scores on a wild pitch beating the tag of Taijuan Walker during the Mets' 4-3 loss to the Padres.
Fernando Tatis Jr. scores on a wild pitch beating the tag of Taijuan Walker during the Mets’ 4-3 loss to the Padres.
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Rojas found just the right spot for Alonso in the sixth, sending up the slugger with the bases loaded and one out against lefty Tim Hill. But Alonso, who delivered a go-ahead RBI single in the ninth inning a day earlier to help the Mets escape victorious from Arizona, grounded into an inning-ending double play to keep the Padres’ lead at 4-2.

The Mets didn’t show life against Yu Darvish until the sixth, when James McCann continued his torrid stretch with a two-run homer to left that got the Mets on the board. The homer was McCann’s second in as many games and third since Saturday. He entered on a 9-for-19 (.474) rampage.

Darvish, who dominated through the first five innings, never survived the sixth. After the McCann homer, he plunked Dominic Smith and was removed from the game. Over 5 ¹/₃ innings, he allowed two earned runs on four hits with five strikeouts and one walk.

Fernando Tatis Jr. cleared the center-field fence (just barely) in the third for a two-run homer that provided the game’s first scoring. Tatis’ drive hit inside Mason Williams’ glove as he reached above the fence and popped out as he descended. The homer was Tatis’ 17th of the season, tying him with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Ronald Acuna Jr. for the MLB lead.

Darvish’s fourth-inning double — his second hit of the game — helped the Padres take a 3-0 lead. Jurickson Profar delivered an RBI single for the run, after Walker had walked Victor Caratini with one out to begin the rally.

Walker walked Manny Machado to begin the inning and then retired Jake Cronenworth before Tatis — the NL Player of the Month for May — connected. Tatis had missed Wednesday’s game against the Cubs with oblique discomfort.

The Mets should have escaped the fifth inning without a run scoring, but got sloppy. First, Brandon Drury committed a throwing error on Wil Myers’ grounder to third, leaving Tatis safe at second. After both runners advanced on a ground out, Walker buried a breaking ball in front of the plate that bounced past McCann for a wild pitch, allowing Tatis to race home with the Padres’ fourth run.

Darvish didn’t allow a hit until the fifth, when Williams with two outs singled off Cronenworth’s glove at first base. Jose Peraza followed with a single to put runners on the corners, but Darvish retired Walker to end the threat.

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