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Jason Vargas falters after four great innings

Callaway knows his fifth starter is vulnerable the third time around a batting order.

Mets starting pitcher Jason Vargas throws during the

Mets starting pitcher Jason Vargas throws during the first inning of an exhibition spring training baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals on Feb. 28, 2019, in Jupiter, Fla.  Photo Credit: AP/Jeff Roberson

JUPITER, Fla. — Jason Vargas’ final line Saturday against the Marlins wasn’t pretty — four innings, four earned runs — but the Mets say they continue to like what they see from their No. 5 starter, who struggled in 2018.

For four innings, Vargas cruised. In the fifth, he exited after allowing the first four batters to reach: JT Riddle singled, Chad Wallach walked, Deven Marrero doubled and Curtis Granderson doubled. Robert Gsellman allowed both inherited runners to score.

“[Vargas] was really good,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “The last three, four pitches cost him some runs, but other than that, he was tremendous. If he continues to build up doing that, he’s going to be in a really good spot, so he’s been throwing the ball great.”

The Mets likely won’t be asking Vargas for much length this year. Late last season, when the lefthander seemed to straighten out his issues, he had a 2.62 ERA in his final eight starts, but he went more than six innings only once.

Vargas, like many pitchers, historically allows much more offensive damage when he goes through a lineup for a third time in a game.

“We’re going to be cognizant of the fact if we get five [innings] and we’re in the ballgame and we’re looking good, that we got to keep a close eye on him,” Callaway said. “He understands that. We did it at the end last year when he was pitching really good. He’s the ultimate team guy who wants to win games, so he’s going to understand whatever it takes to win.’’

Confusion rains

With the Mets trailing the Marlins 11-6 with two outs in the top of the ninth, a hard rain turned into a harder rain, causing the umpires to call a rain delay.

Yes, a rain delay. With one out to go in an exhibition game and the stands nearly empty. The teams stayed in their dugouts for 15 confusing minutes before the umpires emerged from their locker room to declare the game over.

“We were just trying to figure out, what do we do here?” Callaway said. “We owe the fans that paid for tickets a full game. They ended up calling the field unplayable. But it is what it is.”

Mets to hide deGrom, Noah from Nats

Jacob deGrom and Noah Syndergaard will pitch in minor-league games Sunday and Monday, respectively, as the Mets avoid using them against the Nationals, the Mets’ season-opening opponent. Jeurys Familia and Justin Wilson also will pitch in the back-field contests.

In the starters’ place in the Grapefruit League games against Washington, Hector Santiago will start Sunday and Kyle Dowdy will go Monday. 

Extra bases

Seth Lugo (four runs, one inning) and Tim Peterson (two runs, one inning) got knocked around by the Marlins Saturday, rare blemishes on strong Grapefruit League campaigns for both . . . Travis d’Arnaud started again and caught five innings. He went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and didn’t throw out Peter O’Brien, the Marlins’ only base-stealer . . . The Mets optioned righthanded reliever Eric Hanhold to minor-league spring training. They have 41 players left on the big-league side.

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