Díaz shows shades of his '22 award-winning self with huge save

June 15th, 2024

NEW YORK -- In his second game since coming off the injured list, Mets right-hander Edwin Díaz is back to looking like the lights-out closer he was in 2022, when he won the Trevor Hoffman Award as the National League’s top reliever.

There he was on Friday night in a save situation against the Padres. It was the first time since May 25 that he was in such a situation. Unlike the game against the Giants when he blew the save in an extra-inning Mets loss, Díaz was coming through in the clutch in a 2-1 New York victory at Citi Field. His fastball was clocked as high as 100 mph, which is another indication that Díaz is healthy.

It wasn’t easy at first. Díaz allowed a leadoff single to Jurickson Profar, who represented the tying run. After pinch-runner José Azocar stole second base, Díaz struck out Manny Machado.

Donovan Solano was the next hitter, and it looked like he collected a base hit to right field, but second baseman Jeff McNeil dove to his left and threw out Solano for the second out of the inning, and Azócar advanced to third base on the play. Jake Cronenworth was the next hitter, and he struck out to end the game. It was Díaz’s sixth save of the season and his first since May 6 against the Cardinals.

“When [Profar reached base], my mind was good. Even when the [runner is on] third base, I don’t put pressure on myself. I just try to make pitches, and that’s what I did today,” Díaz said.

New York has now won seven out of its past nine games to improve to 31-37.

“We knew it was going to be a close game, but for Edwin to go out there and Jeff McNeil’s diving play was huge,” manager Carlos Mendoza said. “Overall, I thought it was a pretty complete game with Díaz getting the last three outs, particularly with the tying run on third. It was huge for us.”

After the game, Mendoza proclaimed that Díaz is back to being the great closer they expected him to be this season.

“We are going to need him. He will continue to work through some things. As long as he is feeling healthy with confidence, we are going to be in a good spot,” Mendoza said.

The confidence in Díaz’s voice said it all after the game. To say he was glad to get that final out was an understatement.

“I just have to do my job. I don’t think anything right now. I just have to have good outings, help this team to win,” Díaz said. “I’m not thinking back to 2022 or whatever. I’m just thinking day by day right now, just do my job and help this team to win.”

Díaz was able to save the victory for left-hander Sean Manaea, who was in a pitching slump before Friday, allowing 12 runs (11 earned) in his previous 9 1/3 innings. That all changed when Manaea gave the Mets five-plus innings of one-run ball with seven strikeouts.

Manaea had his way with San Diego in the first four innings. After allowing a leadoff single to Luis Arraez to start the game, Manaea retired 11 of the next 13 batters he faced. His only blemish came in the fifth inning when he allowed a solo home run to Jackson Merrill to make it a 2-1 game in favor of New York.

Manaea’s counterpart, Matt Waldron, had one bad inning, and it came in the third against New York’s best hitters in recent days. In Thursday’s game against the Marlins, J.D. Martinez drove in the last two runs of the game on a walk-off home run to help New York to a 3-2 victory. On Friday, Martinez drove in what proved to be the winning run off Waldron in the third. With runners on first and second, Martinez doubled to right field, scoring McNeil and Brandon Nimmo.

“A professional hitter,” Mendoza said about Martinez. “It was not an easy at-bat. Waldron was pretty tough."

New York used four relievers -- Adam Ottavino, Jake Diekman, Sean Reid-Foley and Díaz to shut down San Diego the rest of the way. How did it feel to see Díaz save the game?

“Everybody believes in him. To be able to go out there and shut it down against [the Padres] was huge,” Manaea said.