CINCINNATI — The good news for Jason Vargas was he turned in his best start of the season Tuesday.
The bad news for Vargas is he still gave up four runs in only four innings in the Mets’ 7-2 loss to the Reds.
Vargas lowered his ERA from 16.20 to 13.86 in three games since returning from a fractured right hand that cost him the first month of the season. He has allowed 26 hits and seven walks in 12 1⁄3 innings.
Signed early in spring training as a veteran rotation stabilizer, Vargas has been anything but.
“The command’s not there,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “He’s making too many mistakes. He was hard on himself after the game, saying that’s unacceptable. But he’ll get there. He’s just definitely not there yet.”
And this time it could have been worse. The Reds scored twice before making an out. Eugenio Suarez, who plated a pair with his bases-loaded single in the first, brought in another with an RBI double in the third. Tucker Barnhart singled to score Suarez.
Reds righthander Luis Castillo (no relation to the former Mets infielder) stifled the Mets for 5 2⁄3 innings, allowing two runs and striking out seven. The Mets didn’t have a baserunner until Amed Rosario singled with two outs in the fifth. Both runs scored an inning later, when Wilmer Flores homered and Asdrubal Cabrera singled (eventually coming home on a bases-loaded walk by Amir Garrett).
That made it close until the seventh, when the Reds scored thrice against AJ Ramos and Hansel Robles. Scooter Gennett hit a two-run homer off Robles.
Robles faced five batters, but recorded only one out — on a sacrifice bunt by pitcher Wandy Peralta — before leaving with an apparent injury. He has a 5.23 ERA in 10 appearances. Callaway said Robles was to have an X-Ray on his right knee.
Paul Sewald pitched the final 1 1⁄3 innings, needing only five pitches a day after he threw 28 in 1 2⁄3 innings. It was his first time pitching on consecutive days since September.
Catcher Devin Mesoraco, acquired by the Mets from the Reds in exchange for Matt Harvey about an hour before the game, pinch-hit and struck out in the ninth. The Great American Ball Park crowd gave him a loud round of applause as he stepped to the plate.