It was a sweet homecoming for Neil Walker, who returned to his Pittsburgh hometown Thursday night to get caught up in the euphoria of his beloved Penguins going to the Stanley Cup Finals, and tonight hitting a pair of homers in the Mets’ 8-1 rout of the Pirates.
“I’m happy with the way I’m playing right now,” Walker said. “It’s always special coming back here and nice for people to cheer for you.”
Walker, who is coming off back surgery, accepted a $17.2 million qualifying to return to the Mets rather than test the free agent market. Walker can become a free agent this winter but said he wants to remain with the Mets.
There is reciprocal interest by the Mets in Walker, but there won’t be talks until this winter.
DeGROM BENEFICIARY: The primary beneficiary of Walker’s flexing was Jacob deGrom, who took advantage of the support to be given the opportunity to start the ninth.
DeGrom gave up a leadoff single in the ninth, but Collins left him in to strike out David Freese for his tenth strikeout. DeGrom gave up one run on six hits in 8.1 innings in the longest outing of a Mets’ starter this season.
“He did exactly what we needed,” manager Terry Collins said. “He gave the bullpen the night off.”
ANSWER TO TODAY’S QUESTION: As expected, the Mets optioned Rafael Montero to Triple-A Las Vegas and promoted reliever Tyler Pill.
Pill was 3-1 with a 1.96 ERA for Vegas. The Mets haven’t named a starter for Tuesday’s game against Milwaukee and Pill could get the ball.
CESPEDES UPDATE: Yoenis Cespedes went 0-for-2 with a walk in a rehab start for Class A St. Lucie. The expectations are Cespedes should be activated from the disabled list (left hamstring) next week.
UP NEXT: Zack Wheeler (3-2, 3.74) is coming off a win, May 20, against the Angels. In that game, he gave up two runs on four hits with five strikeouts and five walks.