TORONTO — Seth Lugo’s role with the Mets can best be described as “tourniquet.”
The right-hander admitted disappointment after he was shifted back to the bullpen from the rotation last week, but his two appearances since the switch have been instrumental in team victories.
Wednesday night he followed Corey Oswalt’s abbreviated start with three strong innings of relief that helped the Mets beat the Blue Jays 6-3 at Rogers Centre.
Lugo’s work was magnified by the fact the Mets bullpen had imploded the previous night, when Anthony Swarzak and Robert Gsellman couldn’t navigate the seventh inning before Tim Peterson surrendered a go-ahead homer in the eighth.
“[Lugo] is obviously a big weapon in the pen,” manager Mickey Callaway said. “We were able to go to him earlier than most would like, but we felt it was necessary and he did a great job.”
Lugo allowed one run on three hits over three innings and the Mets (34-49) received ample offense for a third straight game. Jerry Blevins, Gsellman and Jeurys Familia combined to get the Mets through the final two innings.
In the Mets’ previous victory, three days earlier, Lugo entered behind Steven Matz and pitched 1 ²/₃ shutout innings in Miami.
In 24 relief appearances this season Lugo is 2-1 with a 2.23 ERA. He had started five games for the Mets in which he went 1-2 with a 3.52 ERA. His move back to the bullpen has corresponded with a change in mindset.
“I’m not worrying so much about pitching deeper — just attack each hitter like it’s the only one I am going to face,” Lugo said.
Callaway’s biggest challenge might be determining how often he can use Lugo, who has been pitching through a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament the last two seasons.
“That is one thing we have to monitor, especially with Seth,” Callaway said.
Todd Frazier’s two-run homer off Marcus Stroman was the biggest hit of a fifth inning in which the Mets sent 10 batters to the plate and scored five runs to take a 6-2 lead.
Jose Bautista, Asdrubal Cabrera and Michael Conforto each delivered an RBI single in the inning. The rally started with Wilmer Flores’ leadoff single that extended his hitting streak to 11 games. Frazier followed with his 10th homer of the season, a blast over the center-field fence.
In his second major league start, Oswalt lasted four innings and allowed two earned runs on five hits with two strikeouts and one walk. It was a marked improvement from the right-hander’s performance Friday in Miami, where he was knocked out in the third after surrendering six runs.
“It’s not where I want to be,” Oswalt said of the four-inning performance. “But it was a good step forward.”
Callaway indicated he wanted Oswalt removed before he had to face the Blue Jays lineup for a third time in the game.
“Even early on there were some hard-hit balls right at people,” Callaway said. “We felt it was necessary, especially with the top of the lineup coming up, to give them a different look, and we were able to do that with the off day [Thursday] and Lugo being fresh. We are not always going to have that opportunity.”
Oswalt found trouble in the fourth, when Lourdes Gurriel Jr. stroked an RBI single that put the Mets in a 2-1 hole. Kendrys Morales doubled and Russell Martin walked as part of the rally.
Brandon Nimmo’s RBI single an inning earlier had tied it 1-1. Nimmo was thrown out attempting to stretch the hit into a double, but Kevin Plawecki had already crossed the plate before the third out was recorded.
Morales launched a homer in the second that gave the Blue Jays their first run. The blast was the fourth allowed by Oswalt in three appearances this season.
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