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AZ 4, Mets 18 - Six Feet Under

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Record: 58-70. Change on last year: +19

I drifted in and out of last night's game, around watching the grand finale of the above show (worth catching, particularly for the last five minutes, which probably counts as Best Wrapup Ever). It proved painfully appropriate to watch a film about a firm of funeral directors on the night our pennant hopes were finally buried and put to rest, in the most brutal fashion imaginable.

I mean, I expected to lose - but by fourteen runs for the second straight night? Ouch, that hurt. Ortiz was woeful, as fully anticipated, so we bring you what's becoming a regular feature, the Russ Ortiz Excuse of the Day: "I felt like I could throw every pitch with conviction and not worry about my mechanics...I threw every pitch with a purpose. Some were executed, some weren't...The walks today came up and bit me."

How long before we hear: "The dog ate my fastball," "I left my slider on the team bus," and "Game? There was a game today?" If we'd had a full bullpen (they'd pitched four innings the night before), Ortiz would likely have been pinch-hit for first time through the order, but he had to pitch a full four innings. Yesterday's line: seven hits, five walks and eight earned runs.

Things didn't get any better after he left, however:

  • Aquino: 1 IP, 4 H, 2 BB, 5 ER
  • Groom: 1 IP, 5 H, 0 BB, 3 ER
  • Lyon: 1 IP, 2 H, 0 BB, 1 ER
  • Worrell: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 BB, 0 ER [Yay for Timmy!]
  • Valverde: 1 IP, 1 H, 0 BB, 1 ER

Over the past two nights, our bullpen has thrown nine innings and allowed 23 baserunners (20 hits, three walks) and 16 earned runs. That's virtually the same as our starters: nine innings, 24 baserunners (18 hits, six walks) and 16 earned runs.

Our overall team ERA for August is now 7.16 - almost two runs worse than the 15th-placed NL team (Colorado at 5.23). Opposing hitters are batting .309 against us this month, with an OPS over .900. Our bullpen this season now has an ERA of 6.12 - again, far worse than anyone else's in the league, no other team's relievers are even at five, never mind north of six.

Lowlights? Tracy falling over in the outfield, and that spectacularly-inept double-play during which two runners motored home, which I was lucky enough to see on reruns. Or it might have been a trailer for The Bad News Bears, I'm not sure. Score that one: "Beltran grounded into a double play, second baseman Counsell to first baseman Jackson to shortstop Clayton to first baseman Jackson to shortstop Clayton to pitcher Ortiz. Castro scored, Reyes scored, Matsui out."

Highlights? Shawn Green his 300th homer, though few can have been as utterly meaningless. Personally, though, the most gratifying thing was the comments on the game, which proved that AZ fans are just as loyal and diehard as anyone. Even in the darkest hour of the season, there was virtually a full turnout here. So massive props to all peeps: andrewinnewyork, icecoldmo, Otacon, Devin and William K in the house.

The last-named suggested (jokingly - I hope!) "it's time to create a comment-writing 'bot". Nice idea: all you'd really need is to plug it into GameDay, monitor the feed for a few choice phrases and convert them into appropriate output. The only problem is, it would sound like Marvin the Paranoid Android from The Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy:

  • "Here comes another double-play."
  • "What is it with us and runners in scoring position?"
  • "Oops. I thought our defense was supposed to be better this year."
  • "Those leadoff walks will kill you."
  • "Why is no-one warming up in the bullpen?"
  • "Our bullpen sucks."
  • "Well, at least the Padres lost too."

Unfortunately, the last couple of nights, even the last, smallest comfort hasn't been true, so we're now six games back, and sinking like a lead dolphin. Melvin received the much-feared "vote of confidence" from Jeff Moorad: "Any disappointment we feel is the fault of many, not the manager alone. We have a tremendous amount of faith in Bob's leadership ability, and we're going to make every continued effort to try to bolster the lineup." You may well recall similar platitudes being mouthed shortly before Brenly's departure.

But Melvin isn't worried about the talk: "I don't pay attention to the other stuff. There's just so much negative press out there and talk radio, chat rooms [hey, could he mean us?] and all that stuff. There's a lot of it. It matters to me what my players think and what the organization thinks." Not that he'd know what the players think, since he was excluded from the players-only meeting held before the game.

Nor, of course, did that appear to have much effect, though nobody would talk about exactly what was discussed there. The closest was Royce Clayton: "Sometimes, within a household, when you're sitting around with your wife and you're both biting your tongues, it's not really a good situation. I think we've just been biting our tongues for entirely too long. What you need to get done is to coexist and do the right things as a family. That's the most important thing."

More important than, say, being outscored in a series by the margin of 36-6? [And counting] Or having the worst record in the National League since the start of June? Or conceding ten runs in a game, seven times in 2 1/2 weeks? Or letting the opposition score two runs while grounding into a double-play? Beside all that, somehow, I don't rate turning BOB into an episode of 7th Heaven all that highly.

You can rip each other's heads off inside the locker-room for all I care, as long as you play good baseball. That is what you are being paid obscene amounts of money to do: not "coexist" or "do the right things as a family." Funnily enough, you'll probably find a winning clubhouse is the happiest frickin' place on Earth, and makes Disneyland look like Stalag Luft IX.

Poll at right. Obvious question. Diary to follow later on the same topic; comments welcome.