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Diaz enjoying resurgence as Mariners' closer

MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

SEATTLE -- As the Mariners have worked themselves back into postseason contention in the American League Wild Card chase with a strong three-week stretch, one of the many positive components has been a return of closer Edwin Diaz's dominant ways.

After some early-season struggles, the hard-throwing 23-year-old had posted a 1.26 ERA with 18 strikeouts and four walks over 14 1/3 innings in his last 13 games since May 19 entering Thursday's series finale against the Tigers. He also went 5-for-5 in save opportunities during that span, lowering his season ERA to 3.34.

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SEATTLE -- As the Mariners have worked themselves back into postseason contention in the American League Wild Card chase with a strong three-week stretch, one of the many positive components has been a return of closer Edwin Diaz's dominant ways.

After some early-season struggles, the hard-throwing 23-year-old had posted a 1.26 ERA with 18 strikeouts and four walks over 14 1/3 innings in his last 13 games since May 19 entering Thursday's series finale against the Tigers. He also went 5-for-5 in save opportunities during that span, lowering his season ERA to 3.34.

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For the first time, Diaz pitched four straight days in the Mariners' four straight wins from Sunday through Wednesday, so manager Scott Servais said on Thursday that Diaz would have the next day or two off.

Diaz showed some signs of fatigue in Wednesday's 7-5 win, allowing two hits -- including a solo home run by Ian Kinsler -- before slamming the door. His fastball, which has been touching 100 mph in recent days, topped out at 97-98.

Diaz was good, but not as overpowering, and Servais appreciated how he worked through that situation and fell back on some in-game mental adjustments that pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. has been drilling him on.

"Mechanically when we took him out of the closer's role for just a little bit there [in mid-May], he was able to slow some things down and get back behind the ball a little, instead of getting down the mound and having his arm trailing behind," Servais said. "The inconsistency timing-wise, he's been able to clean up.

"Even last night, when he was starting to kind of go back to that because he got tired and that's what happens, Mel has given him a few checkpoints and you saw him walk behind the mound a few times, and that's what he's doing. Why is this happening? And that's a good sign because there are going to be other times he runs out there and it's not easy for him. He'll need to make adjustments and he's learning how to do that."

Hot-bunting topic
While Tigers manager Brad Ausmus and ace Justin Verlander said they had no issues with Jarrod Dyson bunting for a base hit to break up Verlander's perfect game in the sixth inning of Wednesday's game, the topic raised some talk around baseball about the "unwritten rule" that players should be swinging away when a pitcher is throwing a no-hitter.

But Servais was having none of that after his team, sparked by Dyson's one-out single, rallied from a 4-0 deficit for three runs that frame and eventually a 7-5 win.

"People who were in the ballpark didn't say anything and that's the people I'm concerned about," Servais said. "It's baseball. Everybody has these unwritten rules and all this other stuff. But if anybody was in the ballpark last night, they had no issues with anything that happened at all. I certainly didn't. It helped us win the ballgame and that's what we're trying to do.

"I thought the Tigers handled it very classy. I heard what Brad Ausmus and Verlander had to say. They know Dyson. He's played against them a lot. They know what kind of player he is. It's not like Nelson Cruz laid a bunt down. That would have been a little different. I would have passed out, honestly. But that is part of Dyson's game and it certainly changed the game."

Worth noting
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma played light catch in the bullpen on Thursday, his first time off a mound since his rough two-inning rehab outing on Monday for Triple-A Tacoma. But Servais said there was no timetable on when Iwakuma will throw a third rehab outing as he works back from shoulder inflammation that has sidelined him for seven weeks.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners, Edwin Diaz