MILWAUKEE — In a race to the bottom in which everybody associated with the Mets loses, Jason Vargas and AJ Ramos are galloping like Secretariat but without a finish line in sight.
The duo is earning $15.225 million combined this season, money at this point that might as well have been set ablaze during a Citi Field pep rally. On Saturday, the beleaguered starter and equally befuddled reliever combined to waste a rare Mets offensive outburst in a 17-6 loss to the Brewers at Miller Park.
It got embarrassing for the Mets (25-23) in the seventh inning as Chris Flexen was left on the mound to get pounded for seven runs, but Vargas and Ramos were the primary arsonists on a day the Brewers collected 19 hits.
Suddenly, the Mets’ bullpen is on fumes, following a 10-inning loss Friday and Saturday’s debacle, in which Vargas was done after three. The Mets still can get a split in this four-game series, but that likely will require a strong start from unpredictable Zack Wheeler.
Vargas, who has been nothing short of a $16 million bust — he is signed through next season — allowed five earned runs on six hits and two walks in his three innings, a step backward after showing life last Monday against the lowly Marlins. In that start, Vargas pitched five shutout innings for his first respectable performance after three straight clunkers to begin the season. The lefty is sporting a 10.62 ERA, having allowed 34 hits in 20 ¹/₃ innings.
After Jacob Rhame surrendered two runs in the fourth — Christian Yelich’s RBI triple was the big hit — Ramos was summoned to pitch the fifth, a day after imploding in the 10th inning. Ramos allowed a solo homer to Erik Kratz before Yelich drove in two runs with a double, extending the Brewers’ lead to 10-6. Ramos’ undoing was allowing a single to pitcher Dan Jennings with two outs before walking Lorenzo Cain.
A night earlier, Ramos walked the only two batters he faced, including Travis Shaw to force in the winning run. The struggling reliever, whose ERA surged to 6.41 with his shellacking Saturday, met with Mickey Callaway and pitching coach Dave Eiland pregame in an attempt to reboot mentally.
“It’s working on mindset,” Callaway said before the game. “I don’t think he struggles with the ability to throw the ball in the zone when his mind is right. I am sure he goes to the bullpen and throws a strike whenever he wants, so you have to take that same mind set into the game and know your stuff is good enough and you can execute pitches and you have to go out there and do it.”
Jose Reyes’ RBI double in the fifth had pulled the Mets within 7-6 — plodding Adrian Gonzalez scored from first on the play.
Brandon Nimmo and Michael Conforto homered leading off the second and third innings, respectively, for the Mets. It continued a strong series for Nimmo, who reached base five times Thursday.
Vargas allowed a monstrous homer to Jesus Aguilar leading off the third and his line was complete after Tyler Saladino delivered an RBI single later in the inning that tied it 5-5.
The Mets sent eight batters to the plate against Chase Anderson in the first inning and scored three runs but never delivered the jolt that would have provided a substantial cushion. In the inning, Wilmer Flores blooped an RBI single before Jay Bruce walked to load the bases. Devin Mesoraco delivered an RBI single, and Reyes walked with the bases loaded for another run.
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