|Mets pitcher Jason Vargas heading back to the dugout after he left the game in the fourth inning. Photo by Jason Schott.|
It was a tough Sunday for the Mets, as they had to place one of their best pitchers, Noah Syndergaard, on the 10-day injured list on Sunday morning, then lost one of their most reliable arms, Jason Vargas, during the game against St. Louis because of a left calf cramp, and then they went on to lose late once again, 4-3, to the Cardinals.
Syndergaard had to leave Saturday night's win against St. Louis with a strained right hamstring and he underwent an MRI Sunday morning.
Mets Manager Mickey Callaway said of Syndergaard's MRI, "It has't been read and diagnosed yet, so we're waiting on the doctors to do that."
The Mets' one bit of good news on the injury front was that they activated Robinson Cano from the IL before the game.
Vargas, who had been on quite a run lately, allowing one or no runs in six of his prior eight starts entering Sunday and came off a win over the Yankees last Tuesday, which was his third straight quality start.
In the first, Paul DeJong earned a walk before Paul Goldschmidt tore into a Vargas fastball down the middle and banged it off the facade of the second deck in left field for a two-run home run.
The Mets got one of those runs right back in the bottom of the first against Cardinals starter Dakota Hudson (5-3 and a 3.47 ERA) when Dominic Smith, who was making a rare appearance in the leadoff spot, doubled and scored on a J.D. Davis single.
In the third, the Mets got some two-out cookin' as Cano laced a beautiful double down the line in right, and he came in to score on a single by Adeiny Hechavarria.
Juan Lagares followed with a single of his own to score Hechavarria and give the Mets a 3-2 lead.
In the fourth, Vargas ran into trouble when he walked Golschmidt and Jose Martinez to open the inning. Dexter Fowler then hit a grounder to second, and Cano got it to Hechavarria, who dropped the throw, and at first Fowler was called out.
St. Louis challenged and the call was overturned, as Hechavarria never had control of the ball, so the bases were loaded with none out.
Vargas beared down and got Yadier Molina to hit into a double play, which scored Goldschmidt (but Molina didn't get an RBI) to tie it at 3 and then he struck out Harrison Bader to get out of the inning.
In the bottom of the fourth, with one out, Vargas came to the plate and after one pitch, he called for
Callaway and the trainer to come out and that was all for the left-hander, who was diagnosed with a left calf cramp.
Vargas wasn't as sharp as he was his prior few times out , which included a complete game shutout against San Francisco on June 5, but he still battled through the pain to allow just two earned runs on one hit (the Goldschmidt homer) and three walks, with four strikeouts.
Jacob deGrom came up to finish the at-bat and he was erased in a Smith double play to end the inning.
The Mets put something together in the fifth, as Michael Conforto and Pete Alonso each got one-out singles before Cano grounded into a double play.
Wilmer Font relieved Vargas in the fifth and he pitched three shutout innings in which didn't allow a hit and worked around a walk in the sixth and a Hechavarria injury in the seventh, and struck out three.
Hudson threw six innings and allowed three runs (all earned) on eighth hits and three walks, and struck out three.
Andrew Miller, who allowed three runs in the seventh on Friday night, redeemed himself in the seventh in this one, as he worked around a one-hit single from Smith and ended the inning with a strikeout of Conforto.
The Mets turned to Chris Flexen in the eighth inning, and he was making just his third appearance of the season. One of his prior two appearances this season actually was against the Cardinals in St. Louis on April 20 when he allowed 6 runs (5 earned) on 7 hits and 4 walls, with no strikeouts in 4-1/3 innings in a 10-2 Cardinal win.
Flexen started off the eighth by getting Matt Carpenter to line one to Hechavarria up the middle with the shift on (ironic because on Thursday night, he got an RBI by hitting one to the left side with the shift on and only Todd Frazier over there.
Next up was Paul DeJong, who hit a rocket down the line in left for a homer to make it 4-3 St. Louis.
Flexen recovered to strike out Goldschmidt and Martinez to get out to avoid further damage.
Brooks Pounders, whom the Mets acquired from Cleveland on Saturday came on to pitch a scoreless ninth in his Mets debut.
Cards reliever Carlos Martinez, who retired the Mets in order in the eighth stayed on for the ninth.
Martinez faced a trio of pinch hitters: Jeff McNeil, who struck out; Todd Frazier, who popped one over Goldschmidt's head down the line past first base; and Wilson Ramos, who hit into a double play to end it.
Callaway said of the decision to bring in Flexen for the eighth, "We brought him up for a reason. He's been throwing the ball well, and we had three guys down today; he was the next guy we thought could give us a great inning. He threw the ball well, he just fell behind 3-0 to a dangerous hitter (DeJong) and had to throw two strikes, didn't execute the slider as well as he liked, and he popped it out of there.
"The bottom line is our bullpen was tremendous today, five innings, one run. You know, the tale of the game, they were one swing away, we were one swing away. They made one good swing."
The Mets fell to 34-37 as they embark on an 11-game road trip starting with three in Atlanta against the first-place Braves on Monday night.
This capped a weekend in which the Mets lost three of four to St. Louis, with all of them coming late.
"It's just frustrating," said Callaway. "We did put ourselves in a position to win and we didn't get as many wins as we would have liked. I thought we would have won three and we had a chance to win four, but that's not what happened, so we'll accept and it and we'll move on, learn from it, and go out there in this big series coming up and do better."