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AZ 7, Mets 8 - Crisis? What Crisis?

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Record: 29-21. Change on last season: 0

I, very deliberately, did not post anything last night in the heat of the second consecutive loss delivered by Valverde. "Three minutes after the game isn't the time to ask me if I'm going to change my closer," said Melvin. I concur: it seemed like a time to pause, rather than react instinctively, and so, after a good night's sleep and adequate time to reflect, I respond with appropriate calm consideration. Jose Valverde should be taken to the nearest zoo, staked out in the hyena enclosure and the inhabitants allowed to nibble on his kidneys.

Er, okay, perhaps not quite calm consideration there, but that's because the sting of this one still lingers. As was pointed out in the comments, if Valverde had done his job over the past couple of days, we'd have been 4-0 on this roadtrip thus far. Let's update his recent line to include yesterday's performance:
Valverde: 3.2 IP, 14 H, 3 BB, 4 K, 9 ER
Really, is any part of that unclear? He has allowed the same number of earned runs in the past 48 hours, as he did in the first six weeks of the season.

Here are some choice quotes from an article on mlb.com, Valverde has short memory:

  • "I move on like this," Valverde said snapping his fingers. "Yesterday is yesterday. Today is a new day." - Yes, but what if today sucks worse than yesterday? And then tomorrow brings another disaster? At what point do you say, "Er...maybe something is wrong"?

  • Melvin believes that periodic struggles are inevitable for closers -- it's how they bounce back that separates the pretenders from the real thing. - Let's see. Valverde almost loses a three-run lead. Bounces back from that, by doing exactly the same again. Bounces back from that, by blowing a game and taking a loss, allowing two runs while retiring one hitter. And finally, bounces back from that by a perfect repeat performance. Seems to be separating the pretenders pretty well, I'd say.

  • "If you look at the rest of the closers in the league and how many guys have been beat up this year ... you know he's given up two blown saves," said Melvin. Er, make that three - and, in fact, according to ESPN, only Weathers, Baez and Cordero in the majors have more [though I'm not sure why the Braves' Reitsma isn't listed], and only Cordero has a worse ERA. Plus, the manner in which Valverde has surrendered them, suggests that these are not isolated blips, but a real, serious problem.

This issue must be addressed, and it must be addressed now. In the hyper-competitive NL West - where 3.5 games separate the penthouse from the cellar - we can't afford to pootle around, waiting for Valverde to solve whatever it is that ails him. Melvin has to take Papa Grande aside and explain that the team can not afford these meltdowns, and until the problem is identified, and fixed, someone else will be getting the ball in the ninth inning.

Even Melvin admitted it - at least for Tuesday night, saying "He's not going to be available anyway." Which is strange: twice, this month alone, we've seen Valverde roll out three games in a row - 1st-3rd and 14th-16th. And it's not as if those games were less physically demanding: he threw 47 and 30 pitches respectively, the first two outings of those stretches, but only 28 on Sunday and Monday combined. If he had saved those first two games, think he'd be available tonight? Maybe that was the problem, because it was following that second streak that everything fell apart: is Valverde another arm blown out by Bob Melvin?

We'll see how this pans out. As on Sunday, this overshadowed a credible performance: "But apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?" Here, we came back twice against the Mets, from 4-1 and 6-4 down, to take a 7-6 lead on the back of a three-run homer from Tracy. The top of the order did well, Counsell, Byrnes and Tracy combining for six hits, four runs and five RBIs: Byrnes had two homers in a game for the first time since July 30th, 2004. Estrada and Hudson also had back-to-back sacrifice flies in the fourth, which helped to bring us back into the game.

Not a great performance by Vargas, who snapped the streak of quality starts before getting out of the second inning. Most of the damage was done in that four-run second, where he allowed four hits and a walk. Overall, his line was seven hits, three walks and six earned runs over six innings - but, despite that, he was in line for the win until that disastrous ninth. Medders pitched the seventh on eight pitches, while Vizcaino pitched a perfect eighth with two K's. And then...and then...oh, I'll let this picture replace a thousand words. Most of them with four letters.

Your daily dose of yummy Fangraphs goodness
[Click pic to see full version in new window]
Today: Going Down in Flames II:
This time, it's personal...

Which actually reminds me, I never got round to posting the (distressingly similar) graph for Sunday's game. I'll get right on that... Thanks to VIII, Spencer, azshadowwalker, William K, frienetic, johngordonma and IndyDBack for toasting marshmallows round the bonfire of our lead. After two devastating losses like this, the rest of the series has now suddenly become a test of the team's resilience. Will they be able to put this behind them, or is it going to leave the pitchers gun-shy, and send us spiralling down in the same way we collapsed in 2005? We'll see...