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Jason Vargas’ second poor start dooms Mets as Braves finish sweep

Jason Vargas of the Mets stands on the

Jason Vargas of the Mets stands on the mound during the second inning against the Braves at Citi Field on May 3. Credit: Jim McIsaac

You’d think that any day when you shave nearly six runs off your ERA would be a good one for a pitcher. Not so much for Jason Vargas, though. The Mets’ big offseason pitching acquisition made his second start on Thursday, and he never gave them a chance to win — again.

Vargas put the Mets in a three-run hole before they could come to the plate and gave up six runs in 4 2⁄3 innings in an 11-0 loss to the Braves before 26,882 at Citi Field. Atlanta swept the three-game series, outscoring the Mets 21-2.

Vargas allowed nine runs in 3 2⁄3 innings in his Mets debut on April 28, and manager Mickey Callaway said he saw progress Thursday — even though Vargas himself countered “I don’t.”

Vargas (0-2), who lowered his ERA from 22.09 to 16.20, added that “the outcome is a similar feeling to the previous one because [I] wasn’t able to let the team compete in the early part of the game.”

Not that the Mets were doing much competing against the Braves’ Julio Teheran, who seems to own them. The righthander threw seven scoreless innings against them for the second time this season and didn’t allow a hit until Asdrubal Cabrera’s two-out double in the seventh.

“To take a no-hitter into the seventh, you have to have everything working, and that’s exactly what he had,” Callaway said. “His fastball — even though it wasn’t super-high velo — it was sneaky and getting by guys. He elevated really good, up and in on guys, and just mixed pitches.”

Teheran is 9-5 with a 2.32 ERA in 22 appearances (21 starts) against the Mets.

The Mets ducked a major starting rotation problem in the morning — the elbow discomfort that forced Jacob deGrom from Wednesday night’s loss won’t keep him from making his next start — only to find a different one in the afternoon.

Vargas rode an amazing first half of 2017 with the Royals to finish with 18 wins, and the Mets signed the free agent to a two-year, $16-million deal, but he’s been a disappointment.

His spring training was cut short when he was hit with a line drive and suffered a broken hamate bone in his right wrist, and he missed a month of the season while recovering from March 20 surgery. Still he didn’t blame his poor pitching on missing action. Rather, he said, he hasn’t been making key two-strike pitches.

In the Braves’ three-run first, he gave up a run-scoring double by Nick Markakis on an 0-and-2 pitch and a two-run homer by Kurt Suzuki on a 1-and-2 pitch.

“I’m throwing quality pitches early in the count and not making the quality pitch to put the hitter away,” Vargas said. “It’s the timing of the off-speed or the two-strike pitches that I’ve been throwing. The one to Markakis didn’t have anything on it and just hung up there. Kurt I threw a flat changeup that stays up in the zone.”

In the fifth, Ronald Acuna Jr. hit a solo homer and Markakis a two-run shot — each on the first pitch of the at-bat — before Vargas was removed with two on and two out. Matt Harvey came out of the bullpen and got the final out on one pitch, but he allowed five runs in the seventh inning — the final three on Ozzie Albies’ two-out home run — before he was chased.

“The three runs in the first inning were just two really bad pitches,” Callaway said of Vargas. “He hung an 0-2 curveball [for the double] and then hung a changeup for the homer. The last inning was the same thing: a couple bad pitches.”

It was the first time the Mets suffered back-to-back shutouts since the 2015 season. They have lost 11 of 17 since their 11-1 start and, in this series, their nearly month-long perch atop the NL East standings. “It was just a bad series,” Cabrera said. “We have to forget about this series.”

Jason Vargas’ totals in his first two starts:

W-L 2-0

INNINGS 8 1⁄3

HITS 20

EARNED RUNS 15

HOME RUNS 5

STRIKEOUTS 8

WALKS 5

ERA 16.20

WHIP 3.00

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