ATLANTA – Jason Vargas turned Saturday SunTrust Park into Disaster Central for the Mets, asking only new questions about fifth place in the team's starting rotation.
The left-handed, besieged, threw 36 shots for six batters, only registered one and was charged with four points in a second time in a row. And Plan B, Corey Oswalt, was no better in an 11-7 loss to the Braves who broke the Mets' three-game winning streak.
Vargas (1-1, 14.21 ERA) was dismissed from the rotation for his last round, but in an appearance of relief against the Twins on Tuesday conceded four earned runs in a clean-up run. The Mets have a day off Thursday, which would allow manager Mickey Callaway to jump Vargas back into the rotation, but there are not enough blank dates in the schedule to avoid any problems beyond that.
Vargas was a disaster in the first half of last season, but he got an average of 3.60 on his last 10 starts, letting team officials believe he could bounce back the second year of a contract, which will bring him $ 8 million this season. Until here, everything is fine.
Dallas Keuchel remains an intriguing name in the free agent market, but an industry source casts doubt on Mets' willingness to honor the financial commitment needed to sign the former Cy Prize winner Young.
Oswalt is next behind Vargas, but the right-hander has little confidence in giving up five earned runs in six hits and four hits on three and a half innings in his first appearance since landing Triple-A Syracuse on Wednesday.
Seth Lugo is another possibility, but moving the right-hander in the rotation – where he had already displayed previous flashes of brilliance – would weaken an enclosure that did not fit the overwhelming depth. Lugo should also be extended, but this could be accomplished as part of prolonged relief appearances over the next week.
Vargas was acceptable in his first appearance of the season, in which he pitched five innings and allowed two points for a win in Miami, but the Marlins also have a composition that could be the weakest baseball.
On Saturday, the left-hander was finished after only one third of the inning, in which he made four earned runs on two hits and three walks. After Callaway went to the mound for pitching change, he was ejected by referee Alfonso Marquez's plates for complaining about the hitting area.
Ronald Acuna Jr. was selected in the first round after Josh Donaldson placed the runners in first and second place. Vargas followed with walks to Nick Markakis and Dansby Swanson, forcing another run.
Oswalt came in and delivered a two-point single to Johan Camargo, completing the line on Vargas.
The Mets rallied to tie at 4-4 in the second game against southpaw Sean Newcomb. Juan Lagares' two-point singles kicked off the rally. Newcomb was retired before the end of the round, and Touki Toussaint gave the Braves six innings of relief, allowing him an undeserved run.
Oswalt sank to the bottom of the second when the Braves sent nine batters to the plate and scored four points. Donaldson and Markakis each doubled in the heat, the last one striking in a race.
The Braves extended their lead to 9-4 in the fourth quarter on the Markakis solo circuit. In the sixth, Dansby Swanson delivered a single RBI against Luis Avilan. The Braves extended their lead in the seventh round of the Donaldson circuit against Robert Gsellman.
Brandon Nimmo's RBI single in the ninth gave the Mets an unprecedented seventh consecutive game in which they scored at least six points.