Jason Vargas delivers rare solid start, but Mets lose anyway

BALTIMORE — Jason Vargas isn’t winning any popularity contests with Mets fans during this dreadful season, but it’s no secret he will likely remain in the team’s rotation plans headed to 2019.

Such are the implications when you give a veteran pitcher who doesn’t project as bullpen material a two-year contract for $16 million and are unwilling to swallow the dollars.

“Obviously he is going to be with us next year — he signed a two-year contract,” manager Mickey Callaway said after the Mets’ 6-3 loss to the Orioles at Camden Yards in which Vargas was solid Tuesday. “But we would like to know that going into next season that if he’s on his normal schedule he will be the pitcher he has been in the past.”

Vargas at least gave the Mets a glimpse of what they can expect when he’s at his best: Six respectable innings and a chance to win. But the win part never crystallized, as the Mets bullpen imploded behind Vargas and the lineup was quiet for most of the night.

Vargas, who entered with an 8.75 ERA, worked into the sixth inning for the first time this season, allowing two runs on five hits and three walks. The game slipped from the Mets in the seventh, when Chris Davis hit a go-ahead homer against Bobby Wahl before the Orioles added an insurance run against the right-hander. Tim Beckham iced it with a two-run homer against Paul Sewald in the eighth.

After Vargas recorded an out in the sixth inning for the first time this season, Adam Jones hit a line drive into the left-field seats that tied it 2-2. Vargas’ night concluded with the inning’s third out.

“I definitely felt in command of what I was doing,” Vargas said. “It’s just feeling I had control of the baseball.”

The Mets scrapped for two runs with two outs in the fifth to take a 2-1 lead against Andrew Cashner. Kevin Plawecki and Amed Rosario each delivered an RBI single after the inning appeared dead on Austin Jackson’s double-play grounder.

Jones’ double in the fourth fueled a rally that allowed the Orioles to take a 1-0 lead against Vargas on Mark Trumbo’s sacrifice fly.

Vargas allowed two hits in the first inning but avoided damage, as Jonathan Villar was thrown out attempting to stretch a single into a double and Jones later hit into a double play.

“Any time with Vargas you are watching and wondering why the umpire is calling very close pitches balls, that means he is hitting his spots,” Callaway said. “He is living just off the corner of the plate and that is how I felt tonight.”

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