The left-handed Vargas (0-1), who signed a two-year contract in the offseason, took the mound for the first time this season after sustaining a right wrist injury in training camp. But it was the Padres who were the happy campers as they collected nine runs and nine hits off the veteran in 3 2/3 innings of work. He struck out five, with three walks, in his first appearance with the Mets since 2007.
"He just left too many pitches in the middle,'' manager Mickey Callaway said. "He didn't get the ball where he wanted to.''
Joey Lucchesi (3-1) was too much for the Mets as the southpaw's mix of pitches and herky-jerky delivery sent New York to its eighth loss in its last 13 games.
San Diego plopped four runs on the board in the first inning, the big blow being Christian Villanueva's two-run homer off Vargas' full-count, 87-mph fastball. Manuel Margot added a two-run double, and before the sell out crowd could settle in, the Mets were sunk.
"I made some mistakes early, got behind and got them into some situations where they felt good swinging the bat and it just kept rolling from there,'' Vargas said. "I wasn't able to put some guys away with two strikes and two outs and just kept letting them extend innings. Any time you do that you are really going to put your team behind the eight ball and it was a real grind.''
Vargas, who won a career-high 18 games as an All-Star with the Royals last year, never did look comfortable in his stint. His offspeed pitches weren't fooling the Padres and they went ahead, 6-0, on Austin Hedges' two-run single in the third.
It was a final swing from Franchy Cordero that sent Vargas to the showers, trailing, 9-0. Cordero crushed a three-run homer in the fourth, which traveled a projected 453 feet with an exit velocity of 116.9 mph, according to Statcast™.
Vargas had but one rehab start and rust could have been an issue on a night when little went right.
"There is probably that to factor in,'' Callaway said. "He threw behind a screen for a month and then got to face live hitters one time, so I'm sure some of that was a factor. But he's had those [rough outings] before and he will have them again and he will battle in the meantime.''
Vargas, as expected, offered few excuses.
"I don't know if that had as much to do with it as I just wasn't very good tonight,'' he said. "I felt pretty normal. It was just the bad pitches I threw that they really capitalized on and the other pitches that I was able to execute, they were able to lay off them or put them in a spot where we couldn't get to them. The tone wasn't really there from the get-go.''
Yoenis Cespedes smacked a sixth-inning two-run homer, his sixth on the year, to prevent the Mets from being blanked.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Rally chance fizzles: The Mets had a chance to climb back in the game in the third inning, trailing 4-0, when Lucchesi lost his command and issued consecutive one-out walks to Vargas and Asdrubal Cabrera. Wilmer Flores sent a line drive through the middle that somehow Lucchesi got a glove on. He was able to knock the ball down and force Vargas at third, and then he fanned Cespedes to end the threat.
SOUND SMART Vargas became the fifth Mets player who has gone 10 or more years between appearances with the club, joining pitchers Jason Isringhausen, Bob L. Miller, David Cone and catcher Kelly Stinnett.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS Juan Lagares likely robbed Villanueva of a home run with a spectacular leaping catch in the second inning. Villanueva, who homered in his first at-bat, sent Lagares to the left-center alley fence, where his perfectly timed jump kept Vargas' hanging curve in the ballpark. Lagares, with his right arm perched over the wall, caught the ball and slammed into the fence.
HE SAID IT "[Adrian] Gonzalez has some pretty nasty stuff. He has a good breaking ball and a good knuckleball, seriously. He would be the guy." -- Callaway, on his first choice if a position player was needed to pitch in a blowout
UP NEXT Zack Wheeler (1-1, 4.24 ERA) seeks his first career win over the Padres on Sunday as the Mets cap their three-game series in San Diego. It will be Wheeler's fourth career start against San Diego. In two career starts at Petco Park, Wheeler owns a 1.50 ERA, and it's where he struck out a career-high 12 Padres on Aug. 5, 2013. First pitch is set for 4:10 p.m. ET.
Jay Paris is a contributor to MLB.com based in San Diego.