NEW YORK -- At this point, Mets manager Mickey Callaway said before Tuesday's 6-1 loss to the Reds, how Jason Vargas fares in the waning months of a lost season matters little. The Mets simply want Vargas, whose disjointed campaign has included multiple injuries and near-constant mechanical issues, to log as many innings as possible. In that fashion, Vargas can prime himself to play a more central role next summer.
So it was a cruel coincidence that, not a quarter-of-an-hour after Vargas took the mound, lightning began flashing across the horizon at Citi Field. Thunder rolled in next, then a downpour, scattering fans to the concourses and resulting in a 1-hour, 40-minute rain delay. By the time play resumed, Vargas' chances of returning to the mound had evaporated.
Instead, Paul Sewald entered, allowing two inherited runs to put the finishing touches on Vargas' line: one-third of an inning, three hits, three runs and a strikeout. Instead of innings, Vargas came away with only angst.
"It's just been fairly broken up," Vargas said of his season. "Things definitely haven't gone my way, or our way as a team, very often. Tonight, it was just the weather that's just another layer on it."
Less than halfway through a two-year, $16 million contract, Vargas has produced an 8.75 ERA over 47 1/3 innings and, by any WAR calculation, has performed well below replacement level. Contractually committed to him through at least next season, the Mets have not decided if Vargas will start or relieve in 2019, though Callaway has his opinions.
"I think we're the best team we can possibly be with Vargas pitching, being the guy he was last year," Callaway said, referring to Vargas' All-Star campaign with the Royals, "and in our rotation, and allowing some other guys to kind of fall where they need to fall."
That means giving Vargas chances now to straighten himself out, even if they come at the expense of Corey Oswalt, Seth Lugo or other young pitchers. The Mets still believe in Vargas -- at least partially because they have no choice.
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"You can't ever predict how a guy's going to come in the next year based on what he did the year before," Callaway said. "We've seen guys win Cy Youngs, then go out and lose 19 games. So it's never really a good indicator on how they're going to be the next year, or perform the next year. But we would like him to have some success at the end of the season."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Rain, rain go away: Despite thunderstorms in the forecast, Vargas took the mound as scheduled for the game's first pitch at 7:11 p.m. ET. (Because this is the Reds' only trip to New York, and it is after the All-Star break, MLB rules stipulate that weather decisions are at the sole discretion of umpires.) Vargas allowed hits to three of the first four batters he faced, the last of whom, Eugenio Suarez, one-hopped the center-field fence.
When the umpiring crew did not initially rule Suarez's ball a ground-rule double, the Mets challenged, prompting the crew to consult replay as rain began soaking them. Only after the review was complete did umpires call a halt to the game, ending Vargas' night.
"Really frustrating," Callaway said. "It's tough for him right now. He can't get in a routine. We haven't been able to get him out there every five days, and we think we're about to and then this happens, so it's been tough for him."
A drop of offense: The Mets' only run off Long Island native Sal Romano came via a two-out rally in the second. After Brandon Nimmo doubled, Jose Bautista hit an RBI single back up the middle to snap an 0-for-23 stretch. But Romano subsequently reeled off eight consecutive outs, finishing with six-plus innings of one-run ball.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
As Callaway joined SNY's booth for an in-game interview in the fourth inning, Mason Williams led things off with a slow ground ball to second base. Callaway was in the midst of answering a question about Jeff McNeil when the rookie charged forward, gloved the ball and, without transferring it to his throwing hand, flipped it to first to nab the speedy Williams.
"Great play right there by Jeff," Callaway said on the broadcast, without missing a beat. "You know, he brings energy. He's a fun guy to have around. He's been a bit of a spark plug for us. It's nice to see."
HE SAID IT
"We get a forecast; the grounds-crew guys come in and tell us. We're on the phone with Major League Baseball; they have their forecast. We're looking at ours. It was basically given to me that it was going to maybe hit us, maybe not hit us. And it won't probably hit us until 7:45 or 8:00 if it hits us at all. That was the reason why we started the game. And the reason why we stopped was the lightning. That's the reason why we pulled them off." -- Crew chief Kerwin Danley, on the umpiring crew's decision to start the game
One of the National League Cy Young Award favorites despite a 5-7 record, Jacob deGrom (1.85 ERA) will look to bolster his credentials when he squares off against right-hander Robert Stephenson, making his first start of the season, in a 12:10 p.m. ET Wednesday matinee. deGrom has been particularly effective in day games, with a career 1.99 ERA in those outings.