MIAMI — If the Mets viewed the All-Star break as some sort of reset, a chance to relax for a few days and return to not quite a fresh start but something mentally close to it, well, so much for that.
The Mets opened the second half Friday with an 8-4 loss to the Marlins. They are 40-51 and have lost four in a row to Miami, the only National League club with a worse record (34-55).
“It’s one game,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “It’s not fun to lose the first game back, but it is one game.”
Jason Vargas had his worst start in three months, allowing six runs in five innings.
The game turned on a curious sequence in the third. Vargas was facing Curtis Granderson, who entered with a .189 average and .272 on-base percentage, with two outs and opposing pitcher Caleb Smith on first. Vargas threw to first six times, including three in a row. Granderson wound up homering to right-center for what became a permanent Marlins lead.
Smith told reporters he was surprised at the many pickoff attempts and that after Vargas’ third or fourth try, first-base coach Trey Hillman predicted Granderson would homer.
Vargas said he was throwing over to make Smith dive back to the bag repeatedly.
“It takes a little bit out of you to dive,” Vargas said. “I was trying to take advantage of him putting himself in the situation where he was going to have to work harder. I didn’t make the pitch I needed to make [to Granderson].''
Garrett Cooper made it back-to-back jacks with a 418-foot shot to left, enough of a no-doubter that leftfielder J.D. Davis didn't even move.
The end came for Vargas in the sixth. He walked Granderson and Cooper followed with a run-scoring double to deep center, off the glove of a leaping Michael Conforto, a corner outfielder who has been playing center.
Robert Gsellman allowed a homer by Brian Anderson, his first batter after relieving Vargas. So good through the first quarter of the season, Gsellman has a 9.50 ERA since May 23 (and a 5.17 ERA overall).
Wilson Ramos (two-run single in the third) and Todd Frazier (two-run homer in the ninth) supplied the Mets’ offense.