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AZ 1, Mets 14 - ...and then there's the comedown.

Record: 58-69. Change on last year: +19

After rah-rahing myself up into a fan frenzy for last night's game, the actual AZ performance was like getting slapped in the face. Repeatedly. By an irate ex-girlfriend. Suffering from PMS. And wearing studded iron gauntlets.

Right from the first inning, when we put a man on third with no-one out, and failed to bring him home, this was putrid. The Mets pounded out 17 hits - fifteen off Vargas and Cormier in the first six innings - while outside Tracy (three hits) and Gonzalez (two), the rest of our line-up was 1-for-24. Thanks to Otacon for bravely gutting this one out: you know it's bad when even the expensive seats behind home plate are all but deserted by the seventh-inning stretch.

"We've backed ourselves into a hole now," said Gonzo. "Everybody else behind us has caught up. You can't hide the fact anymore - we've just got to play better. You can only say so much. We just have to go out there and try to win games." Sounds like he has been taking lessons in stating the bleedin' obvious from Melvin.

For this was bad. Sure, the Mets had an almost freakish ability to hit 'em where we weren't. But any attempt to blame a 13-run loss on "bad luck" is futile, and we certainly helped out: see Shawn Green's, er, "interesting" route to that bloop hit in the second, which whizzed past him to the wall for a triple. But there, at least Green deserves a little slack, given how short a time he's been playing CF. On the other hand, I believe Claudio Vargas (ten hits and a walk in five innings) has been a pitcher all his career...

Clearly some difference of opinion over Vargas's effectiveness: he said, "I think today was just not my day, because I watched the video and they hit good pitches." Kelly Stinnett had an alternate view: "He made a lot of mistakes today. He didn't locate - left some balls up, didn't have his slider today, and that's been his pitch since he's come over. He couldn't throw it around the plate tonight."

My money's with Stinnett. Last night, Vargas looked like the sort of pitcher you pick up off the waiver wire for $20K, not the ace of the staff he'd been for two months before that. Let's hope this was a temporary glitch, rather than the league finally figuring out how to hit him. I wouldn't be surprised to hear a "tipping his pitches" rumour come out of the D'backs camp over the next few days.

At least Melvin came up with an excuse for Vargas's feeble attempt to run out a groundball in the third - an attempt soundly booed by the (few) fans in attendance: "He's been battling patella tendinitis for a while, and we've told him to take it easy going down the line. He's getting treatment on it every day between starts to go out there, and I don't think that they're [the fans] aware of that." S'funny, if he's been battling it "for a while", why didn't it affect his previous at-bats?

And then there was Cormier. One inning, six earned runs. Ouch. How the mighty are fallen. Here are his lines, month-by-month:

         IP   H  BB   K  ER    ERA
April   9.0   6   2   8   0   0.00
May    16.1  21   7  10   5   2.76
June   18.0  15   7  12   9   4.50
July   12.2  14  11  13  10   7.11
August 10.2  19   8  10  17  14.34
Before 35.2  46  11  23   9   2.27
After  31.0  29  24  30  32   9.29

I blame the curse of Random Fandom. :-) On Monday, June 13, Stef wrote about how Cormier should be Rookie of the Year - at that point, his VORP of 13.3 led all rookie pitchers. The "Before" and "After" stats above refer to that piece, so if you had to pick a point when the wheels fell off, it's as good as any. The hits and K's haven't changed much - indeed, if anything, they've improved - but the walks have more than doubled, in fewer innings. There is clearly a problem here.

Cormier's VORP is now down in negative territory: our best rookie is currently Brandon Medders, who pitched two scoreless innings last night, fanning five. His VORP is 6.7, despite having pitched only fourteen innings. Taking that into account, it's the second best VORP/IP among rookie pitchers with 10+ innings, behind only Cleveland's Fernando Cabrera (8.8 in 16.2 IP), and ahead of such highly-touted candidates as Zach Duke, Huston Street and Gustavo Chacin. Of course, Cormier didn't concede a run his first 18 innings...

That was about the sole highlight from last night, but you take comfort where you can when, over the past ten games, we've been outscored forty-one to eighty-seven - the past five are worse still: 17-50. According to the East Valley Tribune, before last night's game, Gonzalez "literally wiped cobwebs away from his teammates' bats in the Arizona dugout." Now, if only he could do the same to those inside their heads, too.