NEW YORK -- At the beginning of the 2018 season, Mets fans were not optimistic about Jason Vargas and the numbers he was putting up start after start. The southpaw shifted gears in the second half, and his dominant performance in his final outing of the season on Thursday in
NEW YORK -- At the beginning of the 2018 season, Mets fans were not optimistic about Jason Vargas and the numbers he was putting up start after start. The southpaw shifted gears in the second half, and his dominant performance in his final outing of the season on Thursday in the Mets' 4-1 win over the Braves at Citi Field gave manager Mickey Callaway a reason to believe it will carry over into 2019.
Vargas had an incredibly inconsistent season. He was weighed down by injuries and changes in routine, and ultimately his performance was affected. The second half was when the lefty really started to settle in and look like the 2017 All-Star pitcher that the Mets knew he was when they signed him.
On Thursday, Vargas looked the best he has all season. The veteran threw seven scoreless innings, giving up only three hits while striking out six. He watched his ERA drop to 5.77, which is the lowest it has been in 2018.
The Mets signed Vargas for a reason, and Callaway said that's what has given the organization such confidence in the southpaw.
"I think you obviously understand what he's done his whole career, and is he capable of those same things?" Callaway said before the game on Thursday. "We signed him for a reason and those reasons have been showing up this second half. … I think the rough patch we saw this year was probably due to his routine and breaking his hand and things like that. So once he's settled in, we've seen that guy that we've seen in the past and who he's historically been, and that's the reason we signed him."
Callaway acknowledged that he is the one making the excuses such as routines and lack of Spring Training, and that the lefty is "such a professional" that he would never make excuses himself. Callaway believes Vargas will be as motivated as ever to work this offseason to come back strong for next season.
"I think he's going to take pride in that he finished strong and know that when he was on his routine that he can still be successful," Callaway said after the game. "And I think he's also going to be motivated to come back and be better than ever, because it wasn't the season that he probably wanted to have overall."
Vargas' teammates did him a couple of favors on the offensive end to get him the win. Kevin Plawecki drove a solo home run to left field in the third inning to give the Mets an early lead.
That run stood as the only run of the game until Devin Mesoraco pinch-hit for Vargas in the seventh and crushed a three-run home run to left field.
The Braves showed some life in the eighth inning against three Mets relievers. However, the inning only resulted in one run -- an RBI single from Ronald Acuna Jr.
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
With two outs and two runners on in the top of the ninth, the Braves pinch-hit Freddie Freeman, who has been a nightmare for the Mets to deal with. Robert Gsellman buckled down and struck him out swinging to earn his 13th save of the season.
Thursday was Vargas' first scoreless outing of at least seven innings since his shutout on June 2, 2017, for the Royals against the Indians.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
In the top of the sixth inning with two outs and runners on first and second, Braves right fielder Nick Markakis ripped a sharp grounder to the left side of the infield. Amed Rosario made an impressive diving play to his right and then threw out Markakis at first to prevent a run from scoring.
HE SAID IT
"We were going to send him back out, but we needed the three-run homer by Mesoraco to win the game." -- Callaway, on if the Mets were going to bring Vargas out for the eighth inning after throwing only 77 pitches
Corey Oswalt has played a valuable role for the Mets this season, stepping in wherever they have needed him, whether it be a spot start or out of the 'pen. When starting on four or five days of rest, the righty owns a 4.13 ERA, including a 3.37 mark in September. Oswalt will make his final start of the season on five days of rest against the Marlins on Friday at 7:10 p.m. ET. Right-hander Jose Urena will take the mound for Miami at Citi Field.
Erin Fish is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York.