Diaz's hopes of breaking the MLB record of 62 saves in a season have faded, but he still wants to finish strong

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ANAHEIM — Edwin Diaz came into Friday with 54 saves on the season and his team having just 16 games remaining in its season.

The possibility of the Mariners’ closer surpassing the Major League Baseball record of 62 saves in a season has faded much like his team over the past few weeks. Notching nine saves in 16 games just doesn’t seem possible. So the record set by Francisco Rodriguez with the Angels in 2008 seems safe.

And even Diaz, who has rarely mentioned the record, has moved on from it.

“My goal is just to finish strong,” he said. “I want us to win as many games as we can. And if I can get three or four or five more saves, then that’s good. My mentality whether I pitch or don’t pitch is to help the team.”

Well, 60 might be a nice round number for Diaz. But he’s basically set every record in club history as a closer. There really isn’t much more to prove. As of Friday, Diaz had made 69 appearances, which is three more than the career-high he set in 2017. His 69 1/3 innings pitched are 3 1/3 more than last season’s career high of 66. The Mariners are cognizant of the workload. But they won’t just shut him down.

“If we have a chance to get a save, I expect you’ll see him unless we run off three or four days in a row,” Servais said. “You probably won’t see him pitch three or four days in a row. But we want to give him every chance. He’s had an unbelievable season and certainly build upon that if he can. But you won’t see him pitching in a lot of tie games or things like that, not at the point we are in with our season. But if there’s a save to be had and we can lock down a game, he’ll still be in there.”

Tie games? So does that mean Diaz won’t be used in a tie game at home after the eighth inning when there isn’t a save situation?

“Next question,” Servais said with a smile.

That little scenario has been the only flaw in Diaz’s impeccable resume this season. But in those final seven games at Safeco Field, if there is tie game late with no save situation, you may still see Diaz out there.

Why?

Well he’s their best reliever and they are still trying to win games. The Mariners also want him see him have some success in that limited situation that he’s struggled with at times. “Push through” is how they phrase it.

Like all MLB managers, Servais’ usage of his closer in a tie game at home in the ninth or 10th inning is pretty standard. For a manager, the idea of not pitching their best reliever in a tie game because of the lack of a statistical situation or an old baseball adage isn’t a good enough reason.

There have only been six occasions where Diaz entered a tie game at home with no save situation.

Two times he pitched scoreless frames:

  • May 20 vs. Tigers: one inning pitched, zero runs, one hit, one strikeout
  • May 26 vs. Twins: one inning pitched, zero runs, one hit

The other four times were all losses:

  • May 2 vs. A’s: After James Paxton struck out 16, Diaz comes in and allows a solo homer to Mark Canha.
  • May 29 vs. Rangers: His worst relief outing of the season. No command of any of his pitches leads to four runs allowed on three hits and a walk.
  • July 24 vs. Giants: Dee Gordon fields Pablo Sandoval’s dribbler of a groundball and flips it over Ryon Healy’s head to allow the go-ahead run to score.
  • Sept. 11 vs. Padres: Diaz gives up two straight hits to start the inning and hangs a one-out, first-pitch slider to Wil Myers for a RBI double.

“I try to do my best in that situation,” Diaz said. “If something bad happens, I can’t do nothing about that. But every time I go into a tie game, I try to treat it like a save situation. The results haven’t been good for me, but I’m doing everything the same as when I come in with a lead.”

If anything, coming in with a tie game generates more adrenaline with Diaz. There is no lead or cushion for him to work with like a save situation.

“It’s actually tougher than a save situation,” he said. “You can’t make a mistake.”

There is some thought that Diaz should be shut down for the rest of the season to avoid injury. But the Mariners want to build him up a little more for next season. And Diaz doesn’t think he needs to stop throwing just yet.

“I feel great,” he said. “If I felt something, I would tell them. But my arm feels great. I workout a lot to be ready at this point and my arm and body feel great because of it.”

 

Also

James Paxton (pneumonia) will play catch on Saturday at Safeco Field and could join the team in Anaheim on Sunday or in Houston on Monday. He will likely need to throw a bullpen session before being re-inserted into the starting rotation.

Felix Hernandez (hamstring) played catch again on Friday at Safeco Field. He’s expected to join the team in Houston or at the end of the road trip in Dallas.