Mets reliever Josh Walker delivers a “nice surprise” in return

Pittsburgh — Josh Walker’s first appearance since returning to the Mets’ roster was among the few positives to emerge from the team’s Sunday performance.

The rookie lefty was called with two out in the fifth inning of the Mets’ 2-1 loss to the Pirates at BNC Park and hit Jack Swinski — who had already reached the game — to escape a jam created by Carlos Carrasco.

Walker returned to the mound in the sixth and pitched a scoreless inning, prompting Ji Hwan-pai to double play after allowing a leadoff single to Ke’Bryan Hayes.

“That was a nice surprise,” said manager Buck Showalter. “That was good for [Walker] To get to this position, I hope this bodes well for his confidence in those situations in the future.”

The 28-year-old Walker, who appeared in two games last month with the Mets, had a 1.45 average in 14 games for Triple-A Syracuse. Walker was called up Saturday along with John Curtis as part of a shuffle in which veteran Tommy Hunter was named for the assignment.

Walker averaged 94.7 mph with his four-seam fastball on Sunday.

“I loved the way he came directly to them,” Showalter said. “It gave us a chance to stay in it. … If Walker can do what he showed us today, it will really lighten the load [Brooks] Rally and make it easy to use in any part of the game. This part of it is the positive departure from this series.”

Showalter said he’s happy with the pace left-footed Jose Quintana is moving into his rehabilitation. The left-hander was on his way back in July from rehab after spring training graft surgery on a rib in which a lesion was discovered.

“They put together a schedule until today if all goes well and everything has followed on track so far,” Showalter said. “If anything, he wants to do more. We try not to assume anything with her.”

Andrew McCutcheon’s single in his first at-bat drew a standing ovation from the crowd, as the veteran outfielder recorded his 2,000th career hit. McCutcheon had 1,515 hits while dressed as the Pirates.

“He’s one of the hitters I look up to and have some of the most respect for,” said Francisco Lindor. “He has been doing this for a long time and congratulations to him and his family. Guys that have the character he’s got and everything he’s done, it’s great. They obviously love him here and we hope he gets more strikes, just not against us.”

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