With his save Friday against the Yankees, Edwin Diaz became just the 11th pitcher in MLB history to record at least 30 saves in his age 23 season or younger.
NEW YORK — During the first few months of the season, the idea of notching 30 saves this season seemed unlikely to Edwin Diaz.
Arbitrary number goals aside, he was just trying to keep his closing job and not let every save situations turn into a festival of walks and runs allowed because of mechanical issues leading to an absence of command.
But on Friday night at Yankee Stadium, Diaz, in his first full season as Seattle’s closer, notched his 30th save of 2017 in the Mariners’ 2-1 win in 11 innings.
“It’s a big number,” he said. “The first two months I didn’t think I would get 30 saves. I was pitching okay, but after the All-Star break I was throwing the ball great. I just tried to keep rolling and try to save every game.”
Diaz is the ninth pitcher in Mariners’ team history to record 30 saves in a season. He became just the 11th pitcher in Major League Baseball history to record at least 30 saves in his age 23 season or younger. Last year, Robert Osuna of the Blue Jays saved 33 games at age 22.
“He’s been really big for us,” said manager Scott Servais. “With all the close games we’ve had, our second-half surge has been directly related to our bullpen and he’s been a huge part of it. It’s been great to see. I’m happy for him and happy for us, because it’s what we needed.”
Since the All-Star break, Diaz has converted 17 of his 18 save opportunities with 28 strikeouts in 20 2/3 innings.
“Coming back from that All-Star break really recharged him,” said catcher Mike Zunino. “He was fighting some stuff earlier in the year, but he’s throwing really well now. Little hiccups are going to happen, but he’s done a great job of slowing the game down and closing out that ninth for us.”
Perhaps the biggest key to Diaz’s resurgence has been an awareness of the mechanical issues that forced him out of the closing job briefly in May. With the help of pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, he was able to address the issues as well as learn keys to correcting during the game — something that he couldn’t do earlier in the season.
“When I know my mechanics are good, I will make my outs,” Diaz said. “I will not walk anybody.”
To make sure his mechanics are good, Diaz changed up his daily throwing regimen and preparation.
“I’m working every day on my mechanics,” he said. “That is part of my routine now, and I know I’ll be good every day now because I work hard and those little things help me.”
Robinson Cano was out of the starting lineup for the second straight game with a strained left hamstring. The hope was that Cano would be able to play on Saturday afternoon. Servais had two lineups made up — one with him in it and one with him out of it. But after testing the hamstring pregame, the Mariners decided to keep him out of the lineup.
Cano appeared as a pinch hitter with two outs and two runners on in the eighth against set-up man Tommy Kahnle. He grounded out to end the inning and then played in the field in the bottom of the eighth without incident.
“Robbie, I think, is getting better,” Servais said. “We’ll give it a go and see if we can get him in the lineup tomorrow and go from there.”