NEW YORK -- Robinson Cano certainly could hear the whispers around Citi Field. Everyone else could: At 36, stuck in a season-long slump, was this eight-time All-Star all done?
He didn't think so.
"One day it's going to turn around," Cano kept telling himself.
Cano drove in all five runs and went 4-for-4, punctuating his performance with a pair of second-deck shots.
The second baseman began the day batting just .243 with six homers in his first season with the Mets. Yet before the game, manager Mickey Callaway expressed confidence that Cano would produce, putting him in the category of "Hall of Fame hitters."
Cano's performance Tuesday was just the third three-homer game by a Mets player at home. Lucas Duda and Kirk Nieuwenhuis both did it in July 2015.
"You'd like to do it, to see how it feels," Cano said, pausing and smiling before adding, "It feels good."
Of Cano's nine homers this year, five have come since the All-Star break. This was his 23rd career multihomer game and first since 2017 with Seattle.
"You don't hit three homers if you're declining," Callaway said.
Acquired with closer Edwin Diaz from the Mariners in the offseason, Cano came with five years and $120 million left on his contract. Despite his struggles, Callaway said the Mets saw good things coming.
"He went through a tough stretch. Robinson Cano probably hasn't been through many," Callaway said. "It stands out a little more when it happens to a player like Robbie."
Yoenis Cespedes was the previous Mets player to hit three homers, doing so in 2017. The feat has been accomplished by 13 Mets players, with Cespedes doing it twice.
Vargas (5-5) pitched one-hit ball for six shutout innings, possibly enhancing his trade value. He put on a pitching clinic, getting the San Diego hitters to consistently flail at his changeup.
The 36-year-old lefty permitted only a single by Eric Hosmer in the fifth, struck out eight and walked three. Rookie Fernando Tatis Jr. struck out three times, and Manny Machado swung at a strike three that bounced in the dirt.
Several scouts were at Citi Field, and no doubt the performance by Vargas piqued their interest as the July 31 trade deadline approaches.
Vargas' hardest fastball was clocked at 84.6 mph. Paddack's slowest changeup came in a tick faster at 84.7.
"I guess throwing really hard isn't as unique as it used to be. I'm on the other end of the spectrum," he said. "I'm the only one who throws it that slow."
The anticipated showdown between rookie stars Pete Alonso and Paddack didn't amount to much. The slugging Alonso walked twice and grounded out against the young fireballer.
"Going into it, it was obviously going to be a fun little matchup. We've been wanting this ever since our last 1-v-1, whatever you want to call it," Paddack said.
"It was just kind of frustrating, especially Alonso. You don't want to walk a guy that you're trying to have a little competition with, but at the end of the day, I thought I could have done a better job of executing my game plan."
Diaz relieved with two on in the ninth and got his 22nd save in 26 chances, allowing an RBI double to Tatis before retiring Manuel Margot on a game-ending lineout with two on.
Padres: LHP Adrian Morejon "should be available" to pitch in relief during this three-game series, manager Andy Green said. The 20-year-old Cuban made his major league debut on Sunday at Wrigley Field, allowing one run and three hits in 2 1/3 innings. Green said the Padres will consider using him as an opener over the weekend at home against the Giants.
Mets: Major league batting leader Jeff McNeil was hit in the right elbow by a Paddack pitch in the fifth. McNeil was checked by a trainer and stayed in. ... RHP Zack Wheeler (shoulder impingement) threw batting practice on the field and could be activated Friday to pitch against the Pirates. "I'm 100 percent. Ready to go," he said. Callaway said Wheeler, who last started on July 7, will be on a pitch count of 75-85. Wheeler (6-6, 4.69 ERA) has been the subject of trade rumors leading up to the July 31 deadline. "Last year was the same way," he said.
Padres: RHP Dinelson Lamet (0-2, 5.14 ERA) makes his fourth start of the season. He won his major league debut in 2017 at Citi Field and went 7-8 overall, then missed last year after Tommy John surgery.
Mets: RHP Noah Syndergaard (7-4, 4.36) is 4-0 in his past nine starts.
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