TORONTO -- Early next week, in the midst of 11 games in 10 days leading up to the All-Star break, the Mets will face a pitching jam. With two of their regular starters on the disabled list, the Mets' doubleheader against the Phillies may force them to call up not one, but two starters from the Minors.
Of course, they could avoid that fate simply by slotting Seth Lugo back into the rotation -- something the Mets have done before, and undoubtedly will do again. But manager Mickey Callaway made it clear this week that he prefers using his most versatile pitcher in relief, and Lugo demonstrated why with three effective innings Wednesday night in the Mets' 6-3 win over the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre.
"He obviously is a big weapon in the 'pen and showed it tonight," Callaway said.
Although rookie starter Corey Oswalt gave up just two runs in four innings, the Blue Jays began making more consistent hard contact against him their second time through the batting order. That prompted Callaway to take no chances with Oswalt, calling on Lugo after his team piled up five runs -- two of them on a Todd Frazier homer -- during a 10-batter top of the fifth.
Recently back from a four-start tour in the rotation, Lugo responded with three effective innings to pick up the victory, allowing his only run on a Lourdes Gurriel Jr. fielder's choice in the sixth. Tasked with facing the top of the order in his final inning, Lugo struck out Curtis Granderson and Teoscar Hernandez in succession, then induced a Yangervis Solarte flyout to cap his evening.
For his efforts, Lugo's ERA as a reliever actually increased to 2.23, versus 3.52 as a starter. Perhaps more telling, the right-hander's average fastball velocity is nearly 1 mph greater out of the bullpen, according to Statcast™, while his curveball spin rate also registers a few RPMs higher.
"That's where I want to be, and that's how I'm going to be successful," Lugo said.
Beyond that, the Mets value their most effective swingman's versatility in relief; he has proven just as adept in one-inning stints as he was on Wednesday, throwing three to bridge the gap between Oswalt and the team's back-end relievers.
"Sometimes, it'll be one," Callaway said. "Sometimes, it'll be two. But I think overall, this is an example of why we need [Lugo] in the 'pen."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Mets' 10-batter, five-run rally began innocently enough, when Wilmer Flores singled to extend his career-best hitting streak to 11 games. The next batter, Frazier, crushed a two-run homer to center field, giving the Mets a 3-2 lead.
"It's starting to come around," said Frazier, who entered the night batting .174 his past 28 games.
The Mets weren't done there. With two outs and two men on base, Jose Bautista, Asdrubal Cabrera and Michael Conforto rapped out consecutive RBI singles to chase Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman from the game. Bautista finished 2-for-7 with three walks in his two-game return to Toronto, his home for 10 seasons.
The Mets improved to 31-36 all-time on Independence Day and 3-1 when playing a Fourth of July game in Canada. Their previous three all took place in Montreal.
HE SAID IT
"It's not where I want to be, obviously. But it was a good step forward." -- Oswalt, on his four-inning, two-run performance
Following an off-day Thursday, Jacob deGrom will look to bust out of a -- for him, at least -- miniature funk on Friday when the Mets return home for the first of three games against the Rays. Since allowing seven earned runs over an 11-start stretch spanning parts of three months, deGrom has given up six in his last two outings. He will face right-hander Ryne Stanek in the opener at Citi Field at 7:10 p.m. ET.