The New York Mets have won nine of their last eleven games and have played some of their best baseball of the season to put them firmly back in the Wild Card race after an abysmal stretch that saw them drop a game under .500 for the first time since April. So of course, the other shoe had to drop at some point. After Wednesday’s win against the Miami Marlins, that shoe dropped as manager Terry Collins announced that second baseman Neil Walker would be undergoing season-ending surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back which has bothered him for the last few weeks, causing numbness in one of his feet.

Walker will become the fifth player expected to miss the remainder of the season for the Mets, who have already lost David Wright (neck), Lucas Duda (back), Matt Harvey (thoracic outlet syndrome), and Juan Lagares (thumb) over the course of the last few months, with Steven Matz also dealing with an impingement in his shoulder, which halted any expectation of him returning to team on Thursday, which was originally planned.

News of Walker’s herniated disk broke earlier Wednesday morning, and while general manager Sandy Alderson originally expressed some optimism, Collins said prior to Wednesday’s contest that surgery was an option, though the team and Walker were waiting on a second opinion before making a final decision. That decision, now, looks to have been made, and it comes as a significant blow for a Mets team that topped the Marlins tonight and currently sits just a game and a half back of the second Wild Card spot in the National League. Walker, 30, had been one of the Mets’ best hitters in 2016, batting .282/.347/.476 with 23 home runs in 458 plate appearances, proving to be a more than adequate replacement, both offensively and defensively, for Daniel Murphy, who joined the Washington Nationals in free agency after last season.

Replacing Walker will not be an easy task. The easy thing to do would be to have Wilmer Flores, who homered in the win against Miami, play second while keeping Jose Reyes at third base. But to do so would be to lose Flores’ ability to play all infield positions which has proved invaluable this season. Kelly Johnson is another option, though he has become one of the Mets top pinch hitters and has faltered in an everyday role in the past. With the rosters set to expand on Thursday, minor league players TJ Rivera, Ty Kelly, Matt Reynolds and Eric Campbell figure to be called up from Triple-A Las Vegas, and all could figure to get playing time at second, or at third to allow Reyes to move to the keystone position. Anyway they approach replacing Walker, the only thing for certain is their battle to get back to the postseason just got a lot tougher.

Also on Wednesday, the Mets acquired right-handed reliever Fernando Salas from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for minor league pitcher Erik Manoah, and moving outfielder Justin Ruggiano to the 60-day DL to create a spot on the 40 man roster, effectively ending his season as well. The Mets have been in need of another bullpen arm due to the erratic tendencies of Hansel Robles, and the total ineffectiveness of Jim Henderson since his return from injury. Salas, 31, is 3-6 with a 4.47 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, six saves, and 46 strikeouts in 58 appearances for the Angels. After only giving up seven runs through the first two months of the season (25.2 innings), the former Cardinal was torched in the months of June and July, giving up 17 runs in 20.1 innings before a strong month of August saw him save four games after the trade of Huston Street, only giving up four runs in 10.1 innings, striking out 12 in that time. He figures to become the seventh inning man for the Mets, who hope he can be the bridge from the starters to the formidable end-game duo of Addison Reed and Jeurys Familia.

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