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Game Thread: Bucs looks to bounce back vs Mets’ Vargas

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MLB: New York Mets at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

After their second straight loss following an eleven game winning streak, the Pirates hope to get back in their winning ways as they send Ivan Nova (6-6, 4.28) out to face the Mets’ left-hander Jason Vargas (2-6, 8.60), even as Corey Dickerson and Starling Marte, two of their hottest hitters, remain sidelined with day-to-day injuries.

The 35 year old, 11 year veteran Vargas bounced back with a solid 2017 that saw him post a 18-11 record and a 4.16 ERA in 32 starts for the Royals after missing almost all of the prior two seasons due to Tommy John surgery. This year, after signing with the Mets, he hit the Disabled List in spring training with a hamate fracture in his right (non-throwing) hand, missing the first month, but then on June 24 hit the DL again with a strained right calf. While he was on the mound the results were generally awful, averaging barely over four innings in each of nine starts, with 55 hits and 11 homers allowed in just 37 23 innings.

Vargas’ fastball comes in at just 86.9 mph, but that’s barely off of the 87’s he posted from 2011 to 2015, and up from the 85.6 in limited action last year. He only throws that four-seamer 30% of the time and a two-seamer 27%, with the change being his most frequently used pitch at 31%. Slow, slower and slowest.

With the exception of Nova’s horrendous five (and nearly seven) homer performance in Dodger Stadium, he has pitched well in his eight starts since returned from the DL, posting a 3.40 ERA with a 251/294/475 batting line in that period. In the seven other starts, his ERA has been 2.07.

In Marte’s continued absence after getting hit in the hand with a Trevor Bauer fastball on Wednesday, Sean Rodriguez will make another start in center field while Jordan Luplow will again bat lead off and play left, in place of Dickerson who has hamstring discomfort. After being back in the lineup for just one game, Francisco Cervelli will sit in favor of Elias Diaz who will bat cleanup against the lefty Vargas.

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METS

1 R Amed Rosario SS

2 S Asdrubal Cabrera 2B

3 L Michael Conforto LF

4 R Wilmer Flores 1B

5 L Brandon Nimmo CF

6 R Jose Bautista RF

7 L Jeff McNeil 3B

8 R Kevin Plawecki C

9 L Jason Vargas LHP

(well, Asdrubal Cabrera just got traded to the Phillies, so here’s the new Mets’ lineup)

.1 R Amed Rosario SS

2 L Brandon Nimmo CF

3 R Wilmer Flores 1B

4 L Michael Conforto LF

5 R Jose Bautista RF

6 L Jeff McNeil 3B

7 R Kevin Plawecki C

8 S Jose Reyes 3B

9 L Jason Vargas LHP

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PIRATES

1 R Jordan Luplow LF

2 R Josh Harrison 2B

3 L Gregory Polanco RF

4 R Elias Diaz C

5 R David Freese 3B

6 S Josh Bell 1B

7 R Sean Rodriguez CF

8 R Jordy Mercer SS

9 R Ivan Nova RHP