BALTIMORE — In another Mets loss, 6-3, to the Orioles on Tuesday, merely stepping onto the mound in the sixth inning registered as an accomplishment for Jason Vargas.
The lefthander — beset by injuries, ineffectiveness and an irregular schedule — hadn’t yet done so for the Mets this season, once because of the weather, sometimes because of a pinch hitter and often because of him pitching poorly. But this time, Vargas picked up his first quality start since September, holding Baltimore to two runs in six innings.
And then the bullpen blew it, allowing four runs in two innings. That dropped the Mets (50-67) to 0-3 against the Orioles (36-84), who have the worst record in baseball. They conclude their season series Wednesday night at Camden Yards.
“Any time I’m watching [Vargas] and wondering why the umpire is calling very close pitches balls, that means he’s hitting his spots,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “He’s living just off the corner of the plate. That’s how I felt tonight. ‘Where is that pitch?’ He executed pitch after pitch tonight and pitched a really good game for us.”
Vargas, whose ERA fell to 8.10, said it was the best he’s felt all year.
“It was definitely nice to be out there and feel that way,” he said. “I just felt like I was in control of what I was doing and able to make really quality pitches and get guys to do what I was looking for them to do.”
Vargas and Callaway attributed much of the pitcher’s struggles this year to not pitching regularly. His previous start, a week earlier at Citi Field, ended after one out and a 100-minute rain delay. Instead of bringing him back on short rest, the Mets pushed him back an extra day, opting to have Jacob deGrom face the Yankees Monday and giving Vargas the Orioles.
This time, the schedule tweak worked for Vargas. The Mets are hoping to see more of that.
“Obviously, he’s going to be with us next year,” Callaway said. “We’d like to know, going into next season, if he’s on his normal schedule that he’s going to be the pitcher that he’s been in the past. And I think he will be. I think tonight is what he’s capable of doing.”
Andrew Cashner, who was another one of the Mets’ offseason rotation options until he signed with Baltimore three days before Vargas joined the Mets, allowed two runs in seven innings. Both runs came in the fifth, on RBI singles from Kevin Plawecki and Amed Rosario. Cashner has a 4.71 ERA.
The Mets have totaled four runs in three games against Baltimore, which entered the night with a 5.03 ERA, the second worst in the majors.