You know Brodie Van Wagenen is having a particularly bad week when Edwin Diaz registers two more meltdowns and it’s not the news that most imperils his job security.
Here’s what all Mets fans should be shouting into a hot mic: If their general manager wants any chance at retaining his post under Steve Cohen or whoever winds up with this franchise, if the Mets hope to qualify for these watered-down playoffs this year, then they must adjust their usage of Diaz, the booby prize of Van Wagenen’s first trade as Mets general manager.
Because Diaz has displayed for the second straight season that there are adjustments one must make from Seattle to New York, from the eighth inning to the ninth (or from the sixth to the seventh, in 2020 doubleheader-speak) and from starting a frame clean to inheriting baserunners. And those growing pains continue to singe the Mets.
A collapse for the ages, even by Mets standards, enabled the Yankees to register a highly unlikely 8-7 victory in the opener of Sunday’s twin-bill at Yankee Stadium, and they went onto pick up the sweep with a 5-2, eight-inning win in the nightcap. Diaz suffered both the blown save and the loss in a game that seemed so out of reach, with the Mets up 7-2 after six, that Aaron Boone lifted his best hitter DJ LeMahieu for the seventh to get him off his feet.
“His stuff is there,” Luis Rojas said of Diaz. “We’ll keep working hard with him. He’s a guy that can come into big situations and get big strikeouts and close games for us. We still trust him. We still love his stuff, and that’s when he’s going to get the ball, when there’s tight situations like that where he can come in and get the out.”
Rojas didn’t help matters by starting the seventh with Jared Hughes for his third day of work. Nor did rookie Andres Gimenez, who committed a pair of defensive miscues at third base to nudge the Yankees’ crazy rally along, prompting Rojas to call upon Diaz to retire Aaron Hicks with two outs, men on first and third and a three-run lead.
After a 2-and-2 slider evaded catcher Wilson Ramos, allowing Thairo Estrada to score and moving Luke Voit to second, Hicks sent the very next pitch, a fastball, just over the right field wall to knot the game at 7-7. Back out for the eighth, with Mike Tauchman placed on second base, Diaz allowed Gio Urshela’s walk-off single to right field.
“I thought the slider wasn’t there like it’s been in the outings that we’ve seen him be dominant, so he was almost relying on one pitch,” Rojas said.
“That’s when they went after the fastball.”
With 28 strikeouts in 13 innings over 14 appearances, his ERA rising to a still good 2.77, Diaz has exhibited some dominance in his second Mets campaign after last year’s 5.59 fiasco. Most of that, though, occurred while he was setting up closer Seth Lugo. Since the Mets shifted Lugo to the starting rotation, Diaz has made four appearances, all in save situations, and recorded one save, the latter of which came on Friday night against the Yankees when he started the seventh inning and struck out all three batters he faced. All three failures occurred when Diaz entered the game with runners on base and the tying run either at bat or on base — tougher assignments obviously, but it comes with the job.
Should it still be Diaz’s job? The Mets’ closer options have dwindled between the ascension of Lugo (who clocked his second straight solid if short outing in Game 2) and the placement of Dellin Betances (right lat) on the injured list. Hence a compromise might be necessary: How about limiting Diaz to clean innings for a while and see if he can graduate back to the advanced level?
Not fun dilemmas for Van Wagenen and the Mets to contemplate, all the more so with the trade deadline arriving Monday. Yet it’s one of their own making, the resolution of which could impact the fate of many.
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