Mets' Luis Rojas explains controversial decision to pull Taijuan Walker: 'We went with the matchup'

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Taijuan Walker looking perplexed in dugout no hat white jersey screengrab from clean feed of game
Taijuan Walker looking perplexed in dugout no hat white jersey screengrab from clean feed of game

With the Mets having just taken a 2-1 lead in the sixth, the top of the seventh inning presented a critical moment in Wednesday’s matchup with the San Francisco Giants.

After Kris Bryant reached on a Jonathan Villar error to start the inning, Alex Dickerson then singled on a shallow pop-up to right field that was just out of the reach of a diving Michael Conforto.

It was just the second hit allowed by Taijuan Walker all night.

Just as Walker was preparing to lock in to try to work his way out of the inning, Luis Rojas made his way to the mound and pulled the All-Star after just 74 pitches and those two hits allowed.

With Brandon Crawford stepping to the plate and Aaron Loup ready in the bullpen, Rojas made the decision to go to Loup, who allowed what proved to be the game-winning two-run double to Crawford on his first pitch, as the Giants hung on to win 3-2.

After the game, Rojas explained what went into the decision to remove Walker at that point.

“First of all, starting the inning we had Loup up just in case anything crazy happened. We know [Walker] was throwing a really good game, one hit, the home run [to Bryant]. But the two plays dictated the decision, basically,” said the Mets' skipper. “Run into a first-and-second, no-out, you have a guy like Brandon Crawford at the plate who is their best hitter, and we have probably one of the best lefties in the league in Aaron Loup who has come in and done a good job for us, so we went with the matchup. Last third of the game, seventh inning, up a run. We felt like Loupy was going to come in and probably get that out.

“It didn’t work … We can call it aggressive because of the way Walker was pitching. He didn’t deserve to be out of the game, but the back-to-back plays just led to that decision. He threw the ball well. He did not want to come out of the game as you guys saw. He always wants to be in there competing, especially with the way he was throwing the ball, but after it happened, we just had to minimize the damage right now.”

Walker, who was perfect through the first three innings and was pitching one of his best games of the second half, was visibly frustrated when Rojas pulled him, a move that he was not expecting to be made.

“I was pretty surprised. I thought I was throwing the ball well today,” said the right-hander afterwards. “Got a ground ball and a pop-up and things just didn’t go my way right there, but I still felt good and confident in my pitches. I feel like I was still a groundball away to get a double play with Crawford coming up, and another pitch to get out of it. It is what it is and there’s nothing I can really do about it, just keep going out there every fifth day and pitching.”

Walker also explained his emotions in that moment, saying that earlier in his career he had grown accustomed to maxing out at a higher pitch count.

“When I came into the league — maybe that’s why I get so emotional about it — we were still going out there, seventh inning, 100+ pitches. That’s how I came up and that’s how I want to do my job. I want to go out there as deep as possible, as long as possible. But this is where the game is now and there’s nothing we can really do to change it. I feel like it’s here to stay and my only job is to go out there and pitch until they take the ball from me.”

“There’s nothing to have a conversation [with Rojas] about,” he added. “I’m a competitor competing right there in that moment and obviously I want to stay in the game, but It’s not my call to make. I show emotions and it is what it is.”