Edwin Diaz is so good at being the Mets’ closer. Not being a closer, as we expected from a guy that was untouchable last season for the Mariners.
A Mets’ closer, like Jeurys Familia before him. Or Braden Looper. Or Armando Benitez.
To have the uncanny ability to be dominant one moment, but then completely, utterly soul-crushing the next. Not every closer has that. But for some, slipping on the blue-and-orange gives them that special skill, a talent they didn’t know they had. Because it never happened to them before climbing the mound for the Mets.
Honestly, Diaz was thrust into a difficult situation Thursday night, with the Mets ahead, 4-2, a steady rain falling and the grounds crew hurriedly dumping sack after sack of quick-dry material onto the swampy infield dirt.
At one point, they stopped what they were doing and started unspooling the tarp, realizing that it was a losing battle. But only after the protestations of the Mets -- led by an animated Pete Alonso, arms flailing, glove tucked under his jersey -- did the umpires call off the tarp and choose to plow ahead with the ninth inning.
“We had them putting the diamond dry on the field, and then we said, 'You know what? It's getting to where we need to pull the tarp and cover this thing.’” crew chief Jeff Kellogg said. “And then it started to lighten up, and we said, 'OK. Hold on, let's see.' And it was just the rain, everything about it was tricky.”
All in all, the game was halted for nine minutes as the grounds crew tended to the flooded infield, and Diaz had to wait, already cooling from his bullpen warm-up. It was not ideal, and you could see the effects right away when Diaz walked Marcell Ozuna on five pitches leading off.
That was an immediate red flag, but Diaz still righted himself by getting Jose Martinez on a groundout to third, then whiffing Yadier Molina. Despite the initial fright, it appeared Diaz had settled down, and save No. 15 would be inevitable.
But that wasn’t how things turned out. Kolten Wong followed by smacking a 97-mph fastball off the leftfield wall -- about four feet short of being a tying two-run homer -- to cut the Mets’ deficit to 4-3. Even then, Diaz had a run to work with, and Wong stopped at first base, probably fearful he would slip and be thrown out if he pushed for much more.
Soon Wong would have to anyway, as Harrison Bader then crushed a 98-mph fastball, ripping a line drive into the leftfield corner for a double. How Diaz could get two easy outs, then surrender two thunderbolts through the rain was hard to figure. But if Carlos Gomez is able to make a clean throw from the corner, and Amed Rosario doesn’t drop the relay, the Mets probably cut down Wong at the plate. It was a minor miracle that Wong was able to scamper 270 feet through swampland in order to score the tying run, but that’s the kind of luck Diaz has been getting since moving to Flushing.
Maybe if the umpires shrugged off the Mets’ protests, and put the tarp on as they planned, Diaz doesn’t wind up in that spot. The game gets delayed for two hours instead of nine minutes, and Diaz gets a dry mound at midnight. Instead, the manager was left to explain why Diaz was ineffective - again.
“Just mistakes over the middle,” Callaway said.
Callaway went on to say that he could use Diaz, if necessary, when the suspended game is resumed Friday at 6:10 p.m. But Thursday’s debacle was just another asterisk for Diaz, who either can’t pitch in the rain or the mud or wait around for nine minutes before throwing a pitch.
At first, when the season began, the Mets said he couldn’t be used for more than three outs on any given night because they were saving him for October. Then, when the team decided it was in must-win territory last month, Callway upped it to four outs, but never five.
For a supposedly elite closer, Diaz came with a lot of restrictions. And a surprising penchant for teeing up home runs, as the five he’s allowed so far (in 25 2/3 innings) already has equaled his total from last season.
Was Thursday night’s save chance easy? No way. But sometimes you have to perform when things aren’t perfect, and Diaz could have risen above the fiasco to spare the Mets a lot of aggravation by doing so.
But that wouldn’t make him a Mets closer now, would it?