NEW YORK -- Daniel Murphy who?
Neil Walker delivered a tiebreaking, two-run home run in the seventh inning against JC Ramirez -- the former Pirate’s eighth homer of the month -- and the New York Mets beat the Cincinnati Reds 5-3 on Monday at Citi Field.
The Mets (11-7) moved four games over .500 for the first time this season.
Walker’s long ball total is his most in a calendar month in his career. The eight home runs are one shy of the franchise record for April. Dave Kingman (1976), Carlos Delgado (2006) and John Buck (2013) each had nine, and second baseman Jeff Kent also had eight in 1994.
Michael Conforto went 3-for-3 with a double, homer and walk. He scored three times in the victory.
Third dimension: Conforto is now hitting .378 (14-for-37) with five doubles, three homers and eight RBIs in 10 games since he moved to the No. 3 slot in the batting order.
His 424-foot solo homer against Raisel Iglesias -- the longest of Conforto’s six long balls at Citi Field -- opened the scoring. Conforto then singled and scored on Lucas Duda's two-run homer in the third, and the Mets took a 3-1 lead. All three of Conforto’s home runs this season have come in the first inning. He is 6-for-7 and has reached base in eight of 10 plate appearances in the opening frame in 2016.
The Mets have scored first in a franchise-record 12 consecutive games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The previous mark of 11 had been set in 1987 and 1991.
No-ah decision: Syndergaard departed with a 3-2 lead and was in line to notch his third win, but he came away with a no-decision after Bastardo allowed a runner inherited at first base to score. Bastardo walked Eugenio Suarez on four pitches, then surrendered a game-tying single to Joey Votto.
Syndergaard was charged with three runs on seven hits in 6⅔ innings. He struck out nine and threw a season-high 107 pitches. His ERA climbed to 1.69. Syndergaard’s 38 strikeouts match the franchise record through four starts to begin a season. Pedro Martinez also achieved that total in 2005.
The major Achilles’ heel for Syndergaard of late has been his propensity to allow stolen bases. Billy Hamilton bunted for a single, swiped second and third, then scored on Zack Cozart's sacrifice fly in the third for the Reds’ first run against Syndergaard.
Granted, Hamilton is a speed demon. But Syndergaard allowed five steals Monday and has allowed an MLB-high nine steals this season. He has surrendered 24 steals in 28 games since his major league debut May 12, 2015. That ties for third in the majors in that span. The steal total has come in 26 attempts, for a 92.3 percent success rate. Jon Lester has allowed an MLB-high 37 steals since the date of Syndergaard’s debut, while Tyson Ross has surrendered 26 and A.J. Burnett 24.
Syndergaard isn’t the first young Mets power pitcher to struggle with holding baserunners. In 31 starts in his rookie season in 1984, Dwight Gooden allowed 47 steals in 52 attempts (90.4 percent).
Stay tuned: Travis d'Arnaud departed the game in the eighth with shoulder discomfort.
What a pain: Brandon Phillips was grazed on his left ring finger by a fourth-inning pitch from Syndergaard, and he departed. The offering registered 89 mph as it crossed the plate. X-rays were negative. Phillips fouled off his foot and shin earlier in the at-bat. In his lone at-bat, Phillips reached on an infield single. He has now hit safely in all 33 games in Queens; that's MLB's longest road hitting streak against one opponent since St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Joe Medwick hit in 46 straight road games against the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1933 to 1937.
What’s next: Bartolo Colon (1-1, 2.89 ERA) opposes left-hander Brandon Finnegan (1-1, 3.74) at 7:10 p.m. ET Tuesday. Only one other southpaw has started against the Mets this season --- Miami’s Adam Conley on April 13. Assuming Yoenis Cespedes’ absence because of an upper-right-leg bruise continues, Conforto should start against a left-hander for the first time since his major league debut July 24. Colon bids for career win No. 220, which would break a tie with Pedro Martinez for second among Dominican-born pitchers. Juan Marichal tops that list, with 243.