Mets starting pitcher Jason Vargas allowed a run, three hits,...

Mets starting pitcher Jason Vargas allowed a run, three hits, three walks and struck out three in four innings as the Mets topped the Cardionals, 5-4, on Friday, April 19, 2019, in St. Louis.   Credit: AP/Jeff Roberson

ST. LOUIS — The Mets beat the Cardinals, 5-4, Friday night at Busch Stadium, and Jason Vargas pitched what probably was his best game of the season.  But Vargas still lasted only four innings, bringing his three-start total to 9 1/3.

Manager Mickey Callaway praised Vargas but said the lefthander was tired after throwing 75 pitches. He hadn’t reached that level since April 2.

Under normal pitch-count circumstances, it would have been a “tougher decision” whether to let Vargas continue, Callaway said. He indicated that that is simply Vargas’ reality: a routine question of whether he should or deserves to face a lineup for a third time, as would have been the case in the fifth inning Friday.

“That’s what it is,” Callaway said. “Vargas is going to continue to battle out there, and we’re always going to make sure that we do the best we can to get through the game the right way.”

Vargas held St. Louis to one run (on a homer by Jose Martinez), three hits and three walks. He struck out three, threw 75 pitches and gave up three batted balls hit harder than 100 mph that flew at least 384 feet in the first three innings. All three turned into outs.

That’s a major improvement over Vargas’ previous outing, when he got one out against the Braves.

“The front office, not only this year but last year, and the coaching staff have all supported me the whole time,” said Vargas, whose ERA dropped to 9.58. “I never felt like I needed to be cautious or think about things in a fashion where they don’t believe in what I can do.”

Needed for five innings, the Mets’ bullpen made it close. Seth Lugo gave up a two-run homer to Lane Thomas in his first major-league at-bat. Jeurys Familia and Justin Wilson combined to allow a run in the eighth, so Robert Gsellman had to escape a first-and-third, one-out jam in a one-run game. Edwin Diaz stranded the tying run at third to end the game.

The Mets (11-8) chased Adam Wainwright (four runs, eight hits) in the fourth. After showing in Philadelphia that he was close to breaking out, Robinson Cano went 3-for-5 with two doubles and an RBI.

Pete Alonso, who was 2-for-10 with no extra-base hits in the Phillies series, crushed his seventh homer, a 432-foot, 111.7-mph laser to centerfield in the sixth. That proved to be the difference-making run.

“That was kind of my two-strike approach,” Alonso said. “I managed to cut down my swing a little bit.”

Brandon Nimmo sat out again with a stiff neck but said he was “90, 95 percent” better. Callaway said he would have batted only if it was potentially a game-winning situation.

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