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Vigorous Vargas vexes Giants

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It was a totally dominant game for the Mets against San Francisco.

San Francisco Giants v New York Mets Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Led by new staff ace Jason Vargas, the Mets topped the Giants 7-0 on a muggy night in Queens. Vargas tossed a complete game shutout, by far his best outing as a Met. Unlike his last outing, another excellent performance against the Dodgers, the Mets’ offense showed up in this one, hitting three home runs to provide ample run support in the victory.

At the start, it looked like Vargas wouldn’t be able to follow up his brilliant start in LA. Joe Panik lined a double to right leading off the game, and the Giants were threatening before Vargas had even recorded an out. But the veteran lefty navigated the jam, getting a line out from Donovan Solano and striking out both Tyler Austin and Evan Longoria to end the inning. Jeff McNeil and the Mets offense immediately rewarded Vargas’s resilience. McNeil doubled, moved to third on a fly out, then scored on a ground out to give the Mets a 1-0 lead.

The second and third were quiet, but the offense finally got going again in the fourth. Michael Conforto took Tyler Beede’s first pitch out to center field for a majestic, arcing home run, stretching the Met lead to 2-0. Beede then totally lost the strike zone, walking Wilson Ramos and Todd Frazier before going to a three ball count on Amed Rosario. In a good hitter’s count, Rosario crushed a ball to right-center field, and he knew right off the bat that he had a three-run home run. The Mets had a four run inning and a five run lead.

Unfortunately, the news wasn’t all good. Robinson Cano, who was making his return from a two week stint on the DL with quad soreness, didn’t return to the field in the top of the fifth. He looked notably gimpy while running out a double play ground out in the third, and was moving very gingerly while on defense in the fourth. Adeiny Hechavarria replaced him at second base, and later news confirmed that Cano had re-aggravated his quad injury. This seems like a classic example of the Mets rushing a player back from injury, and hopefully the consequences aren’t too dire.

Still, the game went on, and the Mets kept dominating. Pete Alonso was hit by a pitch leading off the fifth, moved to third on a throwing error, then scored on a sacrifice fly by Michael Conforto. In the seventh, Hechavarria added another run on a solo home run, putting the Mets up by seven. All these runs were moot of course, because Vargas was making mince meat of the Giants lineup. The only baserunner San Francisco managed between the fifth and eighth innings was on a slowly hit ground ball that Rosario misplayed into a single. There were a few hard hit balls - including one that Jeff McNeil made a fantastic play on in left field - but for the most past, the Giants couldn’t square up or even make contact against Vargas’ slow, loopy arsenal.

At 102 pitches, most presumed that Vargas’s outing was complete after eight innings, which would have been his longest outing since 2017. Instead, Mickey Callaway stuck with his starter, and Vargas came out for the ninth. Donovan Solano lined a single with one out, but Vargas was excellent in the ninth otherwise, striking out two and inducing a weak ground ball off the bat of Evan Longoria to end the game.

It was Vargas’ first complete game and first shutout as a Met. Vargas also became the first Mets’ lefty to throw a shutout since Jon Niese in 2013 against the Phillies. The Giants have one of the worst lineups in baseball, but Vargas’ outing was brilliant regardless. More significantly, Vargas has now strung together several good starts, something he never managed during the first year of his contract. With Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler struggling at the moment, Vargas giving the Mets competitive starts is a huge boon, and it’s hopefully something that will continue and that the offense can capitalize on.

With the win, the Mets are now 29-32, sitting 5.5 games back of the Phillies for first place in the NL East. Zack Wheeler will take the mound tomorrow in the season finale against Shaun Anderson.

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What’s WPA?

Big winners: Jason Vargas, +24.2% WPA
Big losers: Robinson Cano, -10.0% WPA
Total pitcher WPA: +24.2% WPA
Total batter WPA: +25.8% WPA
Teh aw3s0mest play: Michael Conforto gives the Mets a 2-0 lead in the fourth, +10.7% WPA
Teh sux0rest play: Robinson Cano grounds into a double play in the third, -12.8% WPA