On July 25, the second game of the season, Wilson Ramos called for just about the worst pitch you’ll ever see. After five pitches on the outer half, he called for an outside corner. He also called for the same exact pitch Edwin Diaz used to strike out Marcell Ozuna the previous game.
When you telegraph a pitch to a Major League hitter, bad things are going to happen. That goes double when it’s a hitter as good as Ozuna. That’s exactly what happened with Diaz who blew the save when Ozuna homered.
With Diaz struggling all throughout 2019, that moment wasn’t about a bad pitch, albeit a well executed bad pitch. No, it was further evidence he can’t close.
Since that game, the second game of the season, Diaz was removed as the closer. Now, we missed it at first as the Mets played poorly and didn’t have a real save opportunity.
Since that game, Seth Lugo recorded all three of the Mets saves. The first two weren’t unusual for him as they were the multi-inning variety. Yesterday was different.
Yesterday, Diaz was brought into the eighth inning as a set-up man for Lugo. For seemingly the first time in his career, the Mets indicated they will use Lugo as a traditional closer. That means what we have long suspected – Diaz officially lost the closers’ job.
What’s interesting about that is Diaz had pitched very well of late.
After his blowup against Boston which Diaz partially attributed to non-use, he’s made four appearances, and he’s been brilliant. Over those four appearances, he’s pitched four scoreless innings striking out eight. In essence, he’s been the Diaz the Mets thought they were getting.
What was really impressive was his outing yesterday.
Mark Carlson was TERRIBLE behind the plate, and he missed what should’ve been a called strike three. On the next pitch, Ryan Lavarnway singled.
The ensuing batter, Eddy Alvarez, hit what appeared to be a routine fly ball which would’ve gotten Diaz out of the inning. Instead, it just carried over the head of Jeff McNeil and it hit the outfield wall.
The ball was carrying well to left yesterday, and there has been suspicion the juiced ball has returned. In either event, Diaz appeared to twice be out of the inning only to find himself dealing with the tying runs in scoring position.
While many expected Diaz to just melt down, he didn’t. Instead, he went back and continued making good pitches. He blew three fastballs by Monte Harrison to get out of the inning.
This was a pressure situation with the game on the line, and Diaz rose to the challenge. He was great in that spot just like he has been great in the vast majority of his save opportunities in his career.
Understandably, Diaz has lost the faith of Mets fans. With outings like this, he’ll regain that trust. However, make no mistake here. Diaz dominating in the eighth is not an indication he should be a set-up man because he’s thriving in that role.
No, this is an indication Diaz still has the ability to close. He has the stuff. He has the moxy. He has the track record.
If the Mets choose to let Lugo go multiple innings to save a game, great. Lugo is perhaps the best reliever in the game. The Mets need to put him in the highest leverage situations and get the most out of his brilliance.
However, Lugo as a one inning closer is a waste of his skill. No, when the Mets need that one inning reliever, the best guy they have for that role in the bullpen is Diaz. When the time comes for the Mets to bring in a reliever to get just three outs to save a game in the ninth, they should hand the ball to Diaz.
After all, as we saw Sunday, he’s still a dominant reliever who can get your team out of a difficult spot to preserve the lead.