S T. LOUIS – The Mets gave Jason Vargas an advantage before he even stepped on the rubber on Friday night.
For a change, the veteran lefty returned the favor to his own team instead of the opponent.
Vargas handed out four baseball innings of a career and the bullpen barely held on from there when the Mets opened a series against the Cardinals with a 5-4 win at Busch Stadium.
Robinson Cano went 3-for-5 with two doubles, one run and one run, while Pete Alonso threw his first homer in seven games, a solo shot to center field in the sixth inning that turned out to be the winning race .
"Fortunately the boy on the mound [Ryan Helsley] I was throwing cheese balls there, "said Alonso, referring to the 97 mph fastball that crushed 432 feet. "He supplied the power for me."
Trying to protect a 5-1 lead in Vargas relief, Seth Lugo allowed a pair of runs in two innings before Jeurys Familia and Justin Wilson joined to get in trouble with one in the eighth place since the leader was down to a race. Robert Gsellman came with runners in the corners, but got two outs and left the tie run 90 feet away.
"That's going to give [Gsellman] A lot of confidence, "said manager Mickey Callaway." He did some quality pitches in a situation where it was difficult. "
Edwin Diaz allowed the tie race to reach the third base again in the ninth, but got Yadier Molina to fly to the center to finish with the Mets (11-8).
Vargas entered the Mets rotation daily, in part because internal options to replace him were slim, after posting an ERA of 14.21 in his first three appearances, two of them as starter.
The last time he left, he could not even pbad the first entrance. He took a step in the right direction on Friday keeping the damage in a race on three hits, three walks and three strikeouts in 75 pitches, more than he had thrown in his last two combined starts, which ended his night before.
"I do not think there's any pressure because the only other start I made in the regular break … we won," Vargas said. "I never felt that I needed to be cautious or think about things in a way that [the front office and coaching staff] I do not believe in what I can do. "
The Mets jumped ahead 2-0 in the first with RBIs from Wilson Ramos and J.D. Davis. Cano extended the lead to 3-0 in the second, singled Juan Lagares home, and then pulled Adam Wainwright out of the game with a double in the fourth inning. Two batters later, Ramos drove another run in a race for the 4-0 lead.
Vargas worked around the traffic in the first three innings, surviving a strong contact, before José Martínez took him to a deep homer in the fourth.
Lugo came out of a jam in the fifth inning, but was not so lucky in the sixth, allowing a two-run homer and two runs for Lane Thomas in his first major league at-bat that cut the Mets' lead. 5-3.
Familia was strong in the seventh, retiring the side in seven pitches, before allowing a double in the eighth. Wilson came in and left a single in the box, with the throwing error of Davis that allows Molina to score to put the score 5-4. An uncontrolled release and a walk later, Gsellman arrived to put out the fire.