WASHINGTON — Taijuan Walker stood astride Juan Soto after tagging him out during a collision at third base that the Washington Nationals slugger felt was more violent than it needed to be.
Walker and the Mets are punishing the N.L. East.
Walker pitched seven innings of no-fuss, scoreless ball, and the Mets remained unbeaten in 10 series this season, cruising past the sloppy Nationals, 4-1, on Thursday.
Walker, a burly right-hander, tagged Soto at third after the Nationals’ best hitter made an elementary baserunning gaffe, getting himself into a rundown after Josh Bell hit a grounder to the left side. Soto slid into Walker’s forearm a few feet in front of the bag and argued for an obstruction call, but Walker already had the ball when Soto got there.
“It was unexpected. I got a little mad because it was a rundown and I didn’t think he was going to slide into me,” Walker said. “Smart play, I guess, the guy was going to second, but in the moment I wasn’t too happy about it.”
After tagging Soto, Walker threw wildly to second base, and right fielder Starling Marte threw back to third to nail Bell and end the Nationals’ best chance to rally.
“Things like that, when we’re behind like that, those are not good baserunning decisions,” Washington Manager Dave Martinez said. “We need to make better decisions.”
Mark Canha went 3 for 4 with a homer and three R.B.I. for the first-place Mets, who took two of three from the last-place Nationals. The Mets have won nine series and split one, and hasn’t lost two straight games in a month.
“We have a hitter of the day. We give the award out when we come in,” Canha said. “Today it was me, and then, what’s cool about this team is, I feel like, I’m pretty sure all our hitters have won the award at some point this year. … Someone always is the hero, and that’s been the coolest part of this year.”
Walker (1-0) allowed three hits, walked one and threw 85 pitches in the longest of his four starts this season, which was interrupted by a stint on the injured list with right shoulder bursitis.
Seth Lugo struck out two in the eighth and Edwin Díaz allowed Soto’s two-out homer in the ninth before retiring Bell to complete the four-hitter.
Soto said he was at fault on the rundown play, which came after he opened the fourth inning with a double off the wall in right-center.
“I was just caught in the middle of nothing,” he said. “I tried to slide. I didn’t try to hurt him or anything like that. He’s got to give me room to at least slide on the base.”