DENVER — Jay Bruce and Dominic Smith were the Mets’ top newsmakers Tuesday afternoon, the former landing on the disabled list with a sore hip and the latter moving from first base to a corner-outfield spot in his absence.
Is Smith ready to play the outfield in the majors? What about at Coors Field? Does he even have an outfielder’s glove? (Yes, but it’s not quite broken in.)
In the Mets’ 10-8 loss, the Rockies rendered questions about outfield personnel irrelevant for the night by hitting it over Smith and everybody else. Colorado mashed four home runs — including back-to-back-to-back jacks against Jason Vargas in the third — in route to blowing the Mets out and snapping their fleeting, three-game win streak.
Vargas was uncompetitive. He lasted only 2 1⁄3 innings, allowing seven runs and nine hits.
An ugly sequence in the bottom of the third ended his night. Nolan Arenado, Trevor Story and Ian Desmond hit consecutive home runs in a span of seven pitches.
“They were all bad pitches,” Vargas said. “And they all got hammered.”
Vargas induced a weak grounder from Carlos Gonzalez and hit Chris Iannetta with a pitch before manager Mickey Callaway pulled him in favor of Hansel Robles. Robles walked two, allowed an inherited runner to score and stranded the bases loaded.
Tuesday was the first time Vargas struck out zero batters since April 16, 2013.
His ERA up to 8.60, Vargas and his high-80s-at-best fastball appeared off the bat to be a bad matchup against the Rockies in the thin mountain air. The abbreviated outing represented a step backward for the lefthander after he had been solid in four of his previous five starts.
“When you come into Coors Field, you tell your pitchers, ‘Don’t worry about what happens here,’ and you move on,” Callaway said. “You come in here, you battle all you can, and you forget about it. Because you can’t let what happens here put you in a tailspin, because it’s not indicative of what you’re going to be your next outing.”
By Game Score — a metric that attempts to evaluate a start with a bottom-line number, with points added for outs and strikeouts and subtracted for baserunners and runs — Vargas was minus-3. His previous low was 9, when he allowed nine runs in his Mets debut in April. A Game Score of 50 is considered average; Vargas has reached that mark three times in nine starts.
It was a rare starting pitcher blowup for the Mets, too. They entered the game with a 2.77 rotation ERA in the past month, tops in baseball.
“Tonight definitely gets magnified because of the things that happened earlier in the season,” Vargas said. “So it’s frustrating, there’s no doubt about it. It’s not something I’m accustomed to and not something I want to get accustomed to.”
It didn’t matter much as Robles and Chris Beck allowed Colorado to continue to score, but the Mets’ offense continued to show life after largely not the first half of June. Behind multi-hit nights from Asdrubal Cabrera and Kevin Plawecki, the Mets scored at least five runs for the fourth consecutive game — the first time this season they’ve accomplished that feat.
Their ninth-inning rally fell short. The Mets scored twice — bringing the potential tying run to the on-deck circle — but Michael Conforto struck out to end it.
The bullpen bright spot was righthander Tim Peterson, who rejoined the Mets on Tuesday when Bruce went on the DL. He struck out three in two perfect innings. In four major-league games, Peterson has a 1.42 ERA and seven strikeouts in 6 1⁄3 innings.
As for Dominic Smith, major-league outfielder? He fared OK, handling all the routine plays and even holding Charlie Blackmon to a single on a ball near the line in the first. Smith ranged to his right, fielded the ball, turned and fired to the cutoff man, shortstop Amed Rosario.
“I kind of shocked myself,” Smith said. “Oh, OK, I can do this.”
His other takeaway: The fans in the outfield are much chattier than the fans near first base. One shouted his sub-.200 average at him. Another advised that he dropped his pocket.
“They wore me out the whole night. They kept it strong from the first to the ninth,” Smith said. “I enjoyed it, actually. It was kind of entertaining.”