Edwin Diaz wasn’t looking to gloat before the Mets’ game Saturday because he wasn’t about to pout during any of the previous three days.
By now, Diaz has figured out how to navigate the roller-coaster life of a major league closer.
Diaz looked dominant in striking out the side and throwing just one of 16 pitches for a ball in earning his 11th save in 14 opportunities Friday night as the Mets beat the Phillies. It was the best imaginable response to his blown save Tuesday against the Giants.
“I can have a bad game and flush it right away,” Diaz said before the series against the Phillies continued Saturday night. “Even if I pitch good, I put it away. When I come into the game, I’m not thinking about yesterday’s game. I’m thinking about what I can do in that moment in the ninth inning.”
Diaz already had a great season under his belt before he truly adopted a short memory. After he notched 57 saves for the 2018 Mariners, Diaz was named the Mariano Rivera American League Reliever of the Year and got a chance to chat with the Yankees legend.
“I didn’t know that mentality at a young age,” Diaz said. “When I talked to Mariano, he told me, ‘Hey, if you pitch good or if you pitch bad, flush it. Every day is different, and you have to do your job.’ Sometimes if I pitch badly, I keep that in my mind because I don’t want to keep thinking about it.”
Diaz is averaging 16.93 strikeouts per nine innings (37 in 19 ²/₃), which is tops among MLB relievers with at least 15 innings. Left-handers are hitting just 5-for-31 (.161) off him. But Diaz didn’t just fall back on his laurels after allowing Brandon Crawford’s walk-off single to end a back-and-forth game in a 13-12 win for the Giants.
“I came here early [Friday] to work on my mechanics because I didn’t pitch the game I wanted in San Francisco,” Diaz said. “When I came into the game, I was feeling good. Command-wise, I’ve been able to throw my fastball low in the zone and up in the zone, and my slider has been nice this year – throwing it for strikes down in the zone.”
Manager Buck Showalter offered unsolicited praise for Diaz, who buzzed through the top four hitters in the Phillies’ lineup. Alec Bohm’s one-out single was the only hiccup, but Bryce Harper and Nick Castellanos — with a combined 15 home runs — went down swinging as the potential tying runs.
“That is a hard part of the lineup to go through,” Showalter said. “That was impressive, and I know that doesn’t go unnoticed by us.”
In his first season with the Mets, Showalter has shown a belief in going back to pitchers quickly after a poor outing.
“It’s good that he trusts me to give the ball every time in the ninth,” Diaz said. “It gives me confidence. When our manager trusts in us, that’s perfect. We can come into the game and know we’ll get the job done because he has our back.”