Lockett earns condiment shower after 1st win

July 21st, 2019

SAN FRANCISCO -- In Pete Alonso’s recollection, the Mets’ postgame fete of Walker Lockett at Oracle Park included “beer, shaving cream, mayonnaise, ketchup, maybe some baby powder.” Alonso would know. Following his first career home run in April, the Mets stuffed Alonso onto a laundry cart and doused him with a similar cocktail. They repeated the process Saturday for Lockett, after he won his first game in an 11-4 Mets victory over the Giants.

“I think the only thing that was missing was the mustard,” Alonso said. “But we got him good.”

“It’s his first big league win,” added Dominic Smith. “You’ve definitely got to make it memorable for him.”

Shower or not, Saturday was a day Lockett won’t soon forget. Tabbed to replace injured starter Zack Wheeler in the Mets’ rotation, Lockett submitted easily the best start of his young career, holding the Giants to one run in five innings. Relying on a heavy fastball that reached 94 mph and a curve that he threw more often than in either of his previous two outings, Lockett allowed just five hits and didn’t walk a batter.

After giving up singles to two of the first three batters he faced, Lockett retired eight straight. The only run against him came in the fifth, when Joe Panik hit an RBI, pinch-hit single, but the Mets by that point held a formidable lead. Half an inning later, Mets manager Mickey Callaway replaced Lockett with pinch-hitter Pete Alonso, who bashed a three-run homer to ensure Lockett’s first victory. Smith, Todd Frazier and Jeff McNeil also homered, with Smith atoning for his game-ending error in Friday night’s loss.

“It feels good, man. It feels good,” Lockett said. “Especially after having some not-so-good starts, and OK starts, it feels good.”

For the Mets, consider Saturday’s performance a bit of vindication for the offseason trade in which they acquired Lockett from the Indians for catcher Kevin Plawecki, hoping he might become a key depth piece for their rotation. Certainly, they needed some stability in that role. Before Saturday, the Mets had asked pitchers outside their Opening Day rotation to start six times this season. Their record in those games was 1-5. The ERA of their replacement starters was 9.67.

Lockett was one of them, going 0-1 with an 11.74 ERA over his first two starts, before shutting down the Giants over five innings. The key, he said, was throwing strikes early in counts, allowing him to get through the fifth on only 58 pitches.

“He did what a starter needs to do,” Callaway said.

With Wheeler due to return potentially next week, Lockett’s next assignment will likely come back at Triple-A Syracuse -- but he may not stay there long. Wheeler is a candidate to move before the July 31 Trade Deadline, as is Jason Vargas. If the Mets trade either of those players, Lockett would be a favorite to step into the rotation once more, with a chance to stick there the rest of the season.

“I think he can be a long-term option at the back end,” Callaway said. “He throws strikes. He’s a competitor. He’s very comfortable out there. You don’t see a lot of nerves. You don’t see the typical, ‘Oh, I’m trying to stay up here in the big leagues’ type mentality. You see a guy that has confidence in his stuff, and he has some plus weapons to get guys out.”