Evans, Vargas give Mets a boost in win
Rookie goes 3-for-4 in debut; starter solid on short rest
DENVER -- The biggest impact on the Mets as they broke their five-game losing streak on Saturday wasn't from the nine-run, 12-hit outburst against the Rockies or the top quality start on short rest from Claudio Vargas.
What brought laughter back to the clubhouse and a spring to the Mets' step on the field was the chance to vicariously share the elated energy of Nick Evans, the newest New Yorker, a 22-year old rookie grabbed from Double-A Binghamton on Friday night and thrust into the starting lineup on Saturday, after which he hit three doubles in helping the Mets roll to a satisfying 9-2 victory over the Rockies.
"Good way to have a debut," said an uplifted Willie Randolph. "That's what you need. Young kid comes up, steps up and give us a little energy. He did a great, great, great job of coming in and picking us up, along with Vargas, who was outstanding, too. Get us off the schneid for a little while."
It may not have been cause to pop out the champagne, but the shaving cream was flying as closer Billy Wagner pranked the raw rookie in his first postgame television interview, and the tension that had characterized the clubhouse as the Mets endured a rough week gave way to levity.
"First pitch he ever saw, and he hit a double," marveled veteran Carlos Delgado. "It [isn't] that [doggone] easy, I'll tell you that much."
Evans himself had a hard time telling if it was easy or not, he was so nervous.
"It's kind of been unreal; the whole thing's been kind of a blur to me," Evans said. "I haven't really eaten since last night. I definitely had butterflies, no doubt about it."
By the time Evans came to bat in the first inning, Rockies starting pitcher Jeff Francis had already seen a blur of runners circling the basepaths as the first five Mets all reached by hit or by walk, each of them eventually scoring. The rally lifted the mood on the bench, and when Evans strode to the plate, about to burst with nervous energy, his new teammates reveled in the unbridled display of emotion.
"That's the beauty," Delgado said. "You come out and show your emotions. You worked hard, and when you're finally here -- yeah, you should be excited. He should be pumped, and he should be on Cloud 9. But 3-for-4? Nothing wrong with that."
Randolph was only half-joking when he said he hoped the rest of his players took note of the clinic Evans put on at the plate, though the wide-eyed rookie admitted he hadn't been following the Mets' troubles much from Double-A. He was happy to play a part in figuring out the formula to get the Mets back in the win column, though.
"The fact that I'm even here still hasn't sunk in yet," Evans said. "I'm still waiting for that to happen."
On a day when every position player showed up for an optional batting practice, the Mets showed they couldn't wait to get to the plate. They kept the momentum going from their five-run first as David Wright knocked a two-out solo shot into the right-field bullpen in the second, and Ramon Castro joined Evans as the only multi-hitting Mets, singling and plating a run in the first, bouncing a leadoff double over the center-field wall in the Mets' two-run eighth, and singling in the ninth. Delgado's ninth-inning solo shot capped the scoring and ensured that all eight starting position players took part in the Mets' hit parade.
"You never exhale in this ballpark," Randolph noted. "We kept pushing all game. We kept talking it up on the bench about adding on, keeping good at-bats. You're never really comfortable. It felt good to get off on the right track, but we still had to keep pushing during the game."
But for the first time in nearly a week, they didn't need to press. With Castro and Fernando Tatis joining Evans as new additions to a new-look lineup, Randolph was able to change the environment and infuse the team with a much-needed boost.
"That's baseball; that's the way it works sometimes -- sometimes [for the sake of] changing things up a little bit, and sometimes out of necessity," Randolph said. "The guys are banged up a little bit. You get some guys with fresh blood in there, a little different energy, and sometimes it works for you."
As welcome as the offensive outburst was, Vargas more than carried his share of the load on Saturday, posting his first win in three starts since being called up by the Mets on May 13. Vargas held the Rockies to two runs on four hits and a walk in seven innings, rebounding quickly after a five-inning, 66-pitch outing on Tuesday in Atlanta.
"I just tried to go deep in the ballgame," Vargas said, explaining that he approached the game as if he was on normal rest. "I felt good. I know we've got a good team. I know we're going to win some ballgames. I think we're starting to see a lot of laughs on the faces in the dugouts."
After Friday night's 13-inning heartbreaker of a loss, the Mets bullpen was as happy as anyone to see Saturday's rematch turn into something of a laugher.
"I guess you kind of had to figure we're going to win one game eventually," Wagner said. "Vargas pitched a big game for the team and for our bullpen. He gave some guys a break. If you look at how we've won some of these games, that's exactly how it worked. Our starters went well, we've had a lead, and we added on late. That's the ingredients of winning and winning convincingly.
"It was a solid game from our standpoint. Tomorrow, we've got to go out and do the same thing. You've got Johnny Maine going. You've got our hitters feeling good. Our bullpen got a breather. That's where you want to be. That's a good feeling going into this stretch."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.