NEW YORK -- Only after Jerry Blevins arrived at Citi Field on Sunday did Mickey Callaway ask him how he felt about starting on the mound. At first, Blevins, a 12-year veteran with 532 relief appearances and no starts, thought his manager was joking. Once he started to piece together the circumstances, Blevins accepted the assignment with enthusiasm.
Far from an ideal situation for the Mets, it was one Callaway said he was comfortable with heading into the team's sixth consecutive loss -- an 8-7 defeat that Blevins started and Justin Turner effectively ended with a go-ahead solo homer. That 11th-inning shot off Chris Flexen, the Dodgers' seventh of the game, dropped the Mets to a season-worst 13 games under .500.
"It was not normal," Mets catcher Kevin Plawecki said of the circumstances surrounding the game.
The issue was a Jason Vargas injury that set off a storm of 11th-hour roster shuffling. Injuring his right calf during conditioning exercises on Tuesday, Vargas alerted team officials to his predicament in the middle of the week. But he threw a bullpen session without issue, according to Callaway, and did not reveal he was hurting any worse until Saturday afternoon.
Rather than call a Minor League pitcher to their taxi squad just in case, the Mets waited until that time to fly Flexen from Las Vegas to New York, where he landed around 7 a.m. Sunday. The Mets had no intentions of starting Flexen, both because of his late arrival and his 8.05 career ERA. But they wanted him for insurance, knowing they would rely on most of the other staff members throughout Sunday's game.
That parade began with Blevins, whose presence prompted Dodgers manager Dave Roberts to shuffle his lineup, batting right-handed masher Enrique Hernandez leadoff. Following Roberts' ideal script, Hernandez homered, as did the next batter, Player Page for Max Muncy.
"Not the ideal start of the first two hitters," Blevins said.
The effects of the Mets' pitching issues never dissipated as they used relievers outside the orbit of their normal responsibilities. After Blevins departed, Tim Peterson allowed the first of Cody Bellinger's two homers in the fourth. Then Chris Beck gave up Hernandez's second long ball. Then Anthony Swarzak allowed two more homers and three runs.
Hanging around all afternoon, the Mets tied things on Plawecki's three-run homer off former teammate Erik Goeddel in the eighth, which only served to postpone their eventual defeat.
Still, Callaway said he would not have drawn up his pitching any differently, nor handled Sunday's game any other way.
"We decided, with what we had and what we were trying to do today to get a win," Callaway said, "that it was probably best to take the approach we did today."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
To bunt or not to bunt: After Jose Bautista drew a leadoff walk in the 10th inning, the Dodgers shifted Hernandez to the right side of the infield and Muncy nearly all the way to second base, leaving almost the entire left side of the infield vacant. The Mets briefly debated asking Dominic Smith to bunt, knowing a successful one would, at worst, put the potential winning run in scoring position with one out.
But Callaway hesitated when he realized Smith had not laid down a sacrifice bunt in his Major or Minor League career. Instead, Smith swung away, striking out on a fastball well above the strike zone.
"We thought about bunting, but Dom's never bunted in his professional career, so we didn't think that would be a good idea," Callaway said. "We wanted him to drive the ball like he's been doing lately. He's put some good swings on it. Unfortunately, it didn't happen. Just because they're shifted over at that point -- he's been doing a good job of going the other way, but you don't want to try to hit one on the ground to the left side or anything."
Los Angeles' seven home runs matched the most the Mets have allowed in a game in franchise history. They've done it three times, including twice in the last 14 months; the Mets also gave up seven against the Nationals on April 30, 2017.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Plawecki's first home run of the season snapped a string of 97 consecutive plate appearances without one, dating to last year. Facing Goeddel, his teammate from 2015-17, Plawecki took a first-pitch curveball for a strike, then crushed a 93-mph fastball over the left-field fence for the homer.
"I feel like my at-bats have been kind of stacking good, quality ones on top of each other," Plawecki said. "As a result, you get good results like that. … I've had a tough time getting some runs in as of late, so I just focused on getting a pitch that was up that I could handle, and was fortunate to put a good swing on it."
FROM THE TRAINER'S ROOM
The 12th pitch to plunk Brandon Nimmo this season was a cutter from Dodgers left-hander Rich Hill that struck Nimmo on the right pinkie in the fifth inning, crumpling him to the ground in pain. After a lengthy consultation with Callaway and trainer Brian Chicklo, Nimmo stayed in the game. But he did not take another at-bat, departing after the sixth inning.
"After some time, it started to throb a little bit and I thought, 'Well, that's all right, I've dealt with that before,'" Nimmo said. "But when I went in to check how it felt swinging, that's when I knew I wasn't any help to the team anymore."
X-rays on Nimmo's hand came back negative, but he will go for an MRI on Monday to make sure all of his smaller bones, which X-rays cannot always show, are intact. More >
HE SAID IT
"I felt like, I'm almost 35 years old, it's a perfect time to transition to the starting rotation." -- Blevins
After leaning on their bullpen for all 11 innings of Sunday's game, the Mets need length out of Monday's starter, Seth Lugo, who lasted just three innings last time out at Colorado. Lugo will oppose right-hander Jameson Taillon when the Mets open a three-game series against the Pirates on Monday at Citi Field. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. ET.