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Neil Walker produces 100th career homer as April surge continues

ATLANTA -- Neil Walker had a good day even before the New York Mets' game began Saturday. The Pittsburgh native's beloved Pittsburgh Penguins eliminated the New York Rangers in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Walker then produced his 100th career homer in the ninth inning of an 8-2 win against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.

Walker now has seven homers in April. That matches the most in a month in his career. He previously produced that total twice with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Only one second baseman in Mets history has more homers in April than Walker's total -- Jeff Kent with eight in 1994.

With six games remaining this month, Walker has a shot at the franchise record for April. Dave Kingman (1976), Carlos Delgado (2006) and John Buck (2013) all had nine homers.

Walker's ninth-inning solo shot came against right-hander Ryan Weber. Walker, whose career high was 23 homers in 2014, even produced his first walk of the season in the first inning.

"I think I'm getting the barrel through the zone the way I want to from both sides of the plate," Walker said, trying to explain his uptick in power. "I tend to hit a fair amount of fly balls. I'm squaring some balls up. That's really it."

A sign that the switch-hitting Walker is becoming more of a threat from the right side of the plate: Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez actually replaced left-hander Matt Marksberry with right-hander Chris Withrow with Walker due up in the seventh inning. Withrow struck out Walker.

"That doesn't happen very often," Walker said about a lefty getting pulled for a righty to face him. "I think that's a testament to the work that I'm putting in. I'm still not where I want to be from the left side. I'm getting close. But, yeah, that's pretty rare."

As for the Penguins ousting the Rangers, Walker said with a smile: "I think the numbers stood for themselves. Unfortunately, there's going to be some upset people with me in New York about that. It was a good day."