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Jason Vargas has his best start as a Met, Bruce homers in his return from the DL

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The Mets shut out the Nationals in the Players Weekend series opener at Citi field.

Washington Nationals v New York Mets Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

If I had said earlier in the season that Jason Vargas and Jay Bruce carried the Mets to victory, few would have believed me. But that’s exactly what happened in the Mets’ 3-0 win over the Nationals to kick off Players Weekend. If I were Jason Vargas, I’d petition Major League Baseball to allow me to wear “Vargy” on my back for the rest of the season, since he is now 2-0 as Vargy.

Vargy was indeed excellent tonight, tossing six scoreless innings for the Mets and striking out eight batters—a season high. All night he was owning the inside part of the plate, hitting his spots with his fastball, and his changeup was particularly nasty. He started things off on the right foot, retiring the Nationals 1-2-3 in the first inning. It was one of four 1-2-3 innings Vargas would have on the night, including the fourth inning in which he struck out the side.

Meanwhile, the Mets struck in the bottom of the first, scratching out a run from an Amed Rosario single, stolen base, a groundout from Jeff McNeil, and a single off the bat of Wilmer Flores. Other than the first inning run, they could not break through against Gio Gonzalez, who was also excellent, even outlasting Vargas for seven innings of one-run ball. The Mets had opportunities against Gonzalez, putting runners on in nearly every inning, but failed to capitalize. A particularly egregious mistake came in the bottom of the fifth. McNeil smacked a one-out single to center, but ran himself into an out on the base paths when, after a Flores fly out, McNeil failed to retouch second base after moving toward third base and was doubled off for the final out of the inning.

McNeil would later redeem himself in the eighth inning. The Mets finally go into the Nationals’ bullpen and McNeil led off the inning with a walk against Koda Glover. Glover then got Flores to fly out to right and Frazier to strike out swinging and it seemed like the Mets were heading for another missed opportunity to keep this game a nail biter. But Glover was replaced by the lefty Tim Collins, tasked with getting Jay Bruce out. He was unsuccessful. McNeil stole second and then Bruce, who had been hitless in his return to the Mets’ lineup, belted a two-run homer to center field to put the Mets up 3-0.

The home run was very fun icing on the cake and probably felt very good for Bruce, but it turns out the Mets’ bullpen was immaculate and did not need the cushion. Seth Lugo pitched two fantastic innings—six up and six down in the seventh and eighth innings and three strikeouts.

Robert Gsellman was tasked with closing out the game for the Mets. He struck out Trea Turner swinging to lead things off, but then Anthony Rendon smacked a double to right-center field. It was certainly a well-struck hit, but Bruce was the same old Bruce in the outfield and took a poor route to a ball that many right fielders would have converted into an out. Nonetheless, Gsellman worked around it, making quick work of Bryce Harper via strikeout and Ryan Zimmerman via a groundout to second to ice the win for the Mets. Gsellman earned his eighth save of the season and the Nationals were shut out for the second straight day—the third time that has happened to them this season. Mets pitchers struck out thirteen Nationals in all and the Nats managed just four hits on the night.

Players’ Weekend continues with a Saturday afternoon matchup of Zack Wheeler against Tanner Roark for the second game of this three game series against the Nationals in Flushing.

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What’s WPA?

Big winners: Jason Vargas, +36% WPA, Seth Lugo, +21% WPA
Big losers: None
Teh aw3s0mest play: Jay Bruce’s two-run homer, +10.5% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Juan Soto’s second inning single to put two on with nobody out, -6.3% WPA-6.3
Total pitcher WPA: +60% WPA
Total batter WPA: -10% WPA
GWRBI!: Wilmer Flores