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PHILADELPHIA — Taijuan Walker’s experience pitching in front of fans in the regular season over the past three years consists of one inning at the end of 2019.

The right-hander won’t get the complete home-opener experience Thursday, with only about 8,000 fans allowed at Citi Field, but he still anticipates nerves will be a factor for his Mets debut.

“I have just got to slow down the game and can’t be too amped,” Walker said Wednesday before the Mets finished their series against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park. “Obviously I can use it to my advantage, but I have got to learn just to develop my own pace. It’s something that hurt me when I was younger, and as the game sped up I just kept getting quicker and quicker, so I am just taking it all in.

“Watching a guy like Jake [deGrom], when there is trouble, he really knows how to slow the game down, and that is what you have to do. I feel I have done a pretty good job of that.”

Taijuan WalkerGetty Images

After just three starts in 2018, Walker underwent Tommy John surgery that cost him the remainder of that season and all but one inning in 2019. Last season, he returned to pitch for the Mariners and Blue Jays, but without fans in the ballparks due to the pandemic.

If spring training and the last three days have taught Walker anything, it’s that the Mets have a rabid following.

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“They are really passionate, and they care a lot about their team,” said Walker, who arrived on a two-year contract worth $20 million. “It’s actually really good to see. There [were] a lot of Mets fans in Philly, so it’s really nice. [Tuesday] when we had that big inning, just to hear the Mets fans cheering us on, it’s just special, so I can’t wait until [Thursday].”

Walker is on schedule in a sense, even with the series postponement in Washington that began the season. Walker threw four innings (roughly 55 pitches) in a simulated game Saturday, keeping him on normal rest.

“You can throw as many bullpens as you want, but it’s different when you have a hitter in there swinging,” Walker said. “I definitely was lucky I was able to do that. We definitely helped get myself sharp.”

Upon choosing No. 99 with his new team, Walker received a package from Turk Wendell — the last Mets player to wear that number. Wendell sent Walker a turkey spurs necklace, wild boar’s tooth, licorice and toothbrush. Walker hinted in spring training he might wear the necklace on the mound, but says he hasn’t yet.

“I am kind of superstitious,” Walker said. “Things have been going good, and if I wear the necklace I don’t want to blame the necklace. I keep it in my locker. I have the licorice in my locker, so it’s going to go with me everywhere I go.”

Filed under new york mets ,  taijuan walker ,  4/7/21

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Mets rally late to beat Rockies, deliver Jacob deGrom win

DENVER — Jacob deGrom finished unfulfilled in his flirtation with history Saturday, but his Mets teammates arrived bearing another kind of gift.

For a change, a dominant deGrom outing ended with smiles for the Mets, who rallied for two runs in the seventh inning to beat the Rockies, 4-3, in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Coors Field.

Francisco Lindor’s RBI single against Josh Bard in the seventh brought in the go-ahead run on a day when deGrom struck out 14 batters. That included nine straight, from the second through fourth innings: one short of the MLB record established by Tom Seaver on April 22, 1970, against the Padres.

The Rockies scored three runs against the right-hander in the fifth, but all were unearned following Jeff McNeil’s throwing error. DeGrom allowed three hits over six innings, and his ERA dropped to 0.45. Edwin Diaz struck out the side in the ninth for the save.

DeGrom was pitching on six days’ rest following consecutive games the Mets had postponed because of weather. That included Friday’s series opener against the Rockies, which got postponed because of wintry conditions.

Albert Almora Jr. reacts after scoring a run in the top of the seventh for the Mets on Saturday.AP

In his previous start, against the Marlins at Citi Field, deGrom took the loss after allowing one run over eight inn ings with 14 strikeouts.

The Mets rallied in the seventh Saturday to take the lead. Jonathan Villar stroked a pinch-hit double against Bard, allowing Albert Almora Jr. to sneak in with the tying run just ahead of the tag at the plate. After Brandon Nimmo singled, Lindor delivered the go-ahead single — his biggest hit since joining the Mets.

Pete Alonso’s homer leading off the sixth against Mychal Givens sliced the Mets’ deficit to 3-2. The blast was Alonso’s second of the season, and the Mets’ first extra-base hit of the game.

DeGrom struck out Josh Fuentes for the first out of the second inning, then fanned the next eight before Fuentes reached on McNeil’s throwing error leading off the fifth. The nine straight strikeouts were a career-best for deGrom, whose previous high was eight.

After deGrom whiffed Sam Hilliard in the fifth — the right-hander’s 10th strikeout in 11 batters faced — an avalanche ensued. Dom Nunez smashed an RBI triple off the right-field fence and Yonathan Daza’s sacrifice fly put the Mets in a 2-1 hole. Raimel Tapia followed with a homer just inside the right-field foul pole. All three runs in the inning were unearned, due to McNeil’s error.

The Rockies’ only early semblance of life against deGrom came in the second inning, when Charlie Blackmon stroked a leadoff double and C.J. Cron walked. But deGrom then began his strikeout streak by blowing away Fuentes.

Jacob deGrom struck out 14, including nine straight against the Rockies on Saturday.Getty Images

DeGrom’s single leading off the third led to the Mets taking a 1-0 lead. Nimmo bunted deGrom to second before Alonso delivered a two-out RBI single.

The Mets received consecutive singles from Michael Conforto and J.D. Davis to begin the fourth against Chi Chi Gonzalez, but failed to extend their lead after James McCann hit into a double play. DeGrom was then retired, leaving Conforto stranded at third base.

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