PHOENIX: Every Mets season always seems to have its ups and downs. Unfortunately, they normally lead to heartbreak and disappointment.

A season that looked like it was going to be almost magical, from no expectations whatsoever to near first place in June, is starting to fade away.

Yes, it’s only July 21. There is still two and half months for the Mets to correct their problems. But right now, there are too many problems.

The starting pitching is an issue with the historic regression of Mike Pelfrey, and the uncertainty of the fifth spot.

That can be handled though, if two things were to happen. Pelfrey needs to be corrected immediately, and the Mets need to make a trade for a starting pitcher.

Really, though, the huge issue right now is the offense. Where did it go? Can anybody locate it? Maybe it’s at Citi Field and didn’t make the West Coast flight. Wherever it went, it needs to return.

Last night’s loss marked the 11th straight game that the Mets have scored four or fewer runs. It got beat badly by a rookie pitcher making his fourth career start when the Mets this season were 6-1 against rookies. It’s lifeless, without any energy.

Maybe the infusion was Josh Thole. He hit his first career home run in the eighth inning, and also earned a spot on the Major League roster for some more time.

Perhaps Thole will get more playing time. But no matter who’s playing, the hitting must return from its layoff.

The Mets are now 6.5 games out of first place, and are on the brink of solely hoping for a Wild Card spot. On this road trip, the Mets are 1-5, and should really be 0-6, looking at things realistically.

They in no way, shape, or form can lose tonight’s game, even if Cy Young were to pitch. This is a team that at one point was 11 games over .500, one-half game out of first place, and within a game of the National League’s best record.

If they can get some hitting, and perhaps break out for five or more runs, then at least that’s a start.

One thing that can’t go south in this game is the pitching of Jon Niese.

The Mets have had the luck of perhaps breaking out offensively, and have it mean little with a bad pitching performance. That can’t happen, either. All indications say Niese will pitch a fine game.

Heck, this season, he has probably been the Mets second-best starter to Johan Santana.

During this offensive rut that the Mets have been in, guys like Niese and Dickey have been hard-luck losers. That’s the answer to why the Mets have fallen off track.

Out of 16 starts made by Niese this season, only four of them has he given up four or more runs. That means, in 75 percent of the games he’s started, the Mets have had a legitimate chance to win.

He’s earned all of his decisions in those starts, and he’s 6-4. He’s received no-decisions in the other four starts.

6-4 is not good enough. Out of those 12, he should’ve been at least 9-3, and if he pitches that well tonight, the Mets have no excuse to lose.

Facing the Mets will be the ace of the Diamondbacks staff, Dan Haren. Although he’s been a great pitcher throughout his career, he hasn’t been as good this season. Yes, he’s on a bad team, but the ERA proves he’s been mediocre at 4.60.

In each of his last five seasons from 2005-2009, Haren has won 14 or more games. He could this season, as he’s 7-8.

In his last start against the Padres, Haren gave up six runs on eight hits in five innings of work. He went through an extreme rough patch in May, giving up 22 runs in a four-start span, pitching to a 7.92 ERA.

The main problem for Haren has been the long ball, as he’s second in the NL in home runs allowed, giving up 21.

He does have 133 strikeouts though, which is third in the NL. So either the Mets can hit long ones off him, or they’ll strike out and struggle. You’d probably go with the latter right now, but you never know.

The bottom line is, the Mets need to win this game, otherwise they’ll head to Los Angeles a desperate team.

Player moves:
LHP Oliver Perez activated off Disabled List
INF Justin Turner demoted to Triple-A Buffalo

Jon Niese this season (16 starts)
6-4, 3.44 ERA, 96.2 IP, 100 hits, 31 BB, 77 SO

Dan Haren vs. New York (career)
1-0, 3.77 ERA, 28.2 IP, 23 hits, 5 BB, 25 SO

2010 season series (New York vs. Arizona)

July 19: Arizona 13, New York 2
July 20: Arizona 3, New York 2

Diamondbacks lead series 2-0

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