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Mets batter former teammate Jason Vargas to win second straight against Phillies

Mets' Wilson Ramos hits a single with one

Mets' Wilson Ramos hits a single with one run batted in off Philadelphia Phillies starting pitcher Jason Vargas during the first inning of a baseball game, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, in Philadelphia. Credit: AP/Matt Rourke

PHILADELPHIA — Even Jason Vargas, no longer on the team, is contributing to the Mets’ playoff push.

The Mets rocked Vargas for five runs in four innings-plus on their way to a 6-3 win over the Phillies on Saturday, their second in a row against one of the teams ahead of them in the National League wild card race.

As the calendar turns to September, the Mets (69-66) are four games back of a postseason spot. They have four clubs to leapfrog and 27 games to play. That is a significant challenge, but also an opportunity for a franchise that hasn’t won a postseason game since the 2015 World Series.

“That’s a perfect way to describe it — we have an opportunity to do something now,” winning pitcher Steven Matz said. “It’s going to take some work, but it’s an opportunity. Everybody is going to try to take advantage of that.”

With an RBI single in the first inning, Wilson Ramos extended his hitting streak to 24 games, the longest active streak in the major leagues and tied for third longest in Mets history. He finished 4-for-5 to raise his average to .299, a remarkable increase from .255 at the start of August.

Saturday was his third four-hit game of the year, all in August.

“I don’t want to think about that [the streak and hot stretch],” Ramos said. “I just want to go out there and think about getting a good pitch to hit.”

Vargas retired the side in order only once but was able to work out of trouble for most of his start. The Mets went 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left seven men on base in the opening three innings before really doing damage in the fifth.

Highlighting the three-run rally: Todd Frazier’s RBI double and Joe Panik’s two-run double, which chased Vargas.

“Vargas pitched a little bit different than we’d seen him before,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “A lot of fastballs in, didn’t throw as many changeups, and he battled and kind of held us through a couple of big jams . . . We ended up getting to him.”

Added Ramos: “I know how he likes to throw. That gave me a little bit more comfort. That was fun.”

Vargas allowed 13 of the 25 batters he faced to reach base: nine hits, three walks and one hit batsman (Frazier).

This was Vargas’ worst start in six since joining the Phillies, who acquired him from the Mets before the trade deadline when the Mets needed to open a rotation spot for Marcus Stroman. He has a 5.18 ERA since joining Philly. (Stroman, who will pitch in the series finale Sunday night, has a 4.91 ERA in five starts for the Mets.)

Matz (9-8) allowed three runs (two earned) in five innings. He mostly cruised until the sixth, when Bryce Harper homered and the next three Phillies reached base, prompting Callaway to pull his starter for Luis Avilan with the bases loaded and none out.

Frazier (3-for-4) made a leaping snare of Cesar Hernandez’s line drive for the first out. He said it was as if he used his “Go Go Gadget arm like Inspector Gadget.”

“I’ve never seen him jump that high before,” Callaway said. “I don’t think we ever will again.”

Avilan laughed and said: “I really can’t say what I told him in that moment. I love that kind of play, especially in that moment.”

Avilan gave up a walk with the bases loaded but got a double play grounder from Adam Haseley to end the inning.

That kept Matz’s line looking neat. It was a major improvement over his first two starts at Citizens Bank Park this season (15 runs in 4 1⁄3 innings).

“Definitely, today I wanted to come out and beat these guys,” he said. “They beat me up pretty good early on. I definitely had a little bit of extra motivation there.”

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