Vargas, a 25-year-old right-hander, is 3-3 with a solid 3.08 ERA in 11 career appearances, including 10 starts. He has given up only four earned runs over his last four starts, a span of 23 1-3 innings.
Vargas allowed two runs and seven hits in the Expos’ 4-3 loss to the Pirates on Wednesday, but escaped without a decision.
Montreal has been struggling without ailing slugger Vladimir Guerrero in the lineup. However, Guerrero may be able to return to the Expos sooner than originally expected.
On the disabled list for the first time since 1997, Guerrero has been receiving treatment in Florida for a herniated disc.
Expos general manager Omar Minaya told reporters Sunday that Guerrero’s extensive therapy on his injured back is yielding “encouraging results”.
“He’s continuing to improve—that’s what the doctor says,” Minaya said following Montreal’s 4-2 loss to Toronto. “So instead of a couple of months, they estimate a couple of weeks, and now they’re going to do more baseball exercise.”
The most feared hitter in the Expos’ lineup, Guerrero was batting .301 with eight homers and 33 RBIs at the time of his injury.
The Expos initially won six straight with Guerrero out of the lineup, but have won just two of 10 since.
The Pirates have won six of their last eight, but are coming off an 8-5 loss to Cleveland on Sunday. Pittsburgh won the first two games of the series.
“A sweep would have been very nice, but (the Indians) came out and played well after a very long weekend,” shortstop Jack Wilson said.
The Pirates finished 5-7 against the AL and are 42-55 since interleague play began in 1997.
STANDINGS: Pirates - 5th place, 8 GB, NL Central. Expos - 2nd place, 8 GB, NL East.
PIRATES PROBABLE STARTER: Jeff Suppan (5-6, 4.17 ERA). Suppan is 2-4 with a 5.29 ERA on the road. The right-hander is winless in his last three starts overall, going 0-1 with a 4.66 ERA. He allowed two runs and seven hits over seven innings in the Pirates’ 4-3 victory over the Expos on Wednesday.
EXPOS PROBABLE STARTER: Vargas (3-3, 3.08 ERA). The rookie hurler is 2-0 with a 2.31 ERA in four starts at home. Opponents are hitting .248 against Vargas.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: Pirates - Brian Giles, .303 avg.; Reggie Sanders, 10 HRs; Aramis Ramirez, 43 RBIs; Kenny Lofton, 45 runs and 14 SBs. Expos - Jose Vidro, .328 avg.; Orlando Cabrera, 11 HRs, 43 RBIs and 49 runs; Endy Chavez, 13 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: Pirates, 2-1.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Pirates - OF Giles is batting .312 with five home runs and 27 RBIs in 31 career games against Montreal. … 3B Ramirez is hitting .320 in June after batting .349 in May. … RHP Mike Williams is tied for fourth in the NL with 19 saves. Williams had a team-record 46 saves in 2002. Expos - 1B Joe Vitiello made his Expos debut on Sunday. Vitiello, whose contract was purchased from Triple-A Edmonton on Saturday, hadn’t played in the majors since 2000 with San Diego. … SS Cabrera is second among NL shortstops with 11 home runs. … 2B Vidro is a .358 career hitter against the Pirates.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Pirates - 18-18 on the road; Expos - 24-13 at home.
INJURIES: Pirates - INF Pat Meares (hand), 60-day DL; INF Pokey Reese (thumb), 60-day DL; RHP Mike Lincoln (shoulder), 60-day DL. Expos - 3B Fernando Tatis (chest), 15-day DL; OF Guerrero (back), 15-day DL; RHP Tony Armas Jr. (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Zach Day (shoulder), 15-day DL; RHP Orlando Hernandez (shoulder), 15-day DL.