Mets’ Edwin Diaz to face former team for first time

PHILADELPHIA — Edwin Diaz will face his old team for the first time this Friday night. 

He should look familiar to the Mariners — their former closer is having a season comparable to his brilliant last year in Seattle. 

Throwing more strikes than he ever has before as a Met and burying hitters with an unhittable slider, Diaz has been the rock in the back end of a shaky bullpen. Simply put, early on this season he has been everything the Mets envisioned when they landed him, along with Robinson Cano, in the much-dissected Jarred Kelenic trade four years ago. 

“This year I got a lot of confidence,” Diaz told The Post on Saturday, before the Mets and Phillies had a game postponed due to rain for the second straight day

Through 12 appearances totaling 12 innings, Diaz has allowed just two earned runs — both on solo home runs. He has walked five and struck out a whopping 21. Many of those strikeouts have come on his devastating slider, a late-breaking off-speed pitch that is difficult to adjust to when it follows a fastball that can reach 100 mph. Diaz is throwing his slider a career-high 52 percent of the time and is getting swings and misses on it an astounding 58.3 percent of the time. 

Edwin Diaz pitches
Edwin Diaz has been dominant to start the 2022 season.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

“You got to [pick] something out with him. You can’t sit there and say I’m going to see the ball,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said. “Good hitters try to [pick] one pitch out. Once you show them that you have command of both those [pitches], it presents a really tough front for the other team.” 

His WHIP is 0.83 — his lowest since a miniscule 0.79 in 2018 with the Mariners. That was by far the best season of his seven-year big league career, a campaign in which he notched a 1.96 ERA and picked up 57 saves. 

The biggest number of that season was 17: how many walks he allowed over 73 ¹/₃ innings. His control, an issue for much of his Mets tenure, has shown marked improvement this season. 

“I like to work on my mechanics every day and I think that’s helping me a lot this year,” the 28-year-old Diaz said. “If I have my mechanics right, keep my hand on top of the ball, I can command my pitches better.” 

Edwin Diaz
Edwin Diaz
Corey Sipkin for the NY POST

The 2018 version of Diaz has shown up for the Mets this year, albeit through a small sample size. He has been at his best in the biggest pressure spots of this young season. He finished off the combined no-hitter against the Phillies on April 29 by striking out the side. He capped a dramatic come-from-behind win Thursday, in which the Mets rallied from six runs down in the ninth inning, with a 1-2-3 frame. And he worked a stress-free inning on April 25, when the Mets came from two runs down in the ninth inning to beat the Cardinals. 

“He’s just been very consistent,” catcher James McCann said, using an adjective that had mostly eluded Diaz in his first three Mets seasons, in which he blew 17 of 81 save opportunities. “That’s the biggest thing.” 

Diaz has blown just one of his seven save opportunities this season, on April 22 against the Diamondbacks, though he responded by getting out of the inning and the Mets made him a winner. Diaz impressed Showalter by not letting Daulton Varsho’s game-tying homer get to him. He quickly turned the page. 

“I think you’re seeing a guy evolve into understanding the ups and downs of that job somewhat,” Showalter said after that game. 

A lot will be made of the reunion on Friday in Queens, when Kelenic — the one-time top prospect of the Mets — faces his old organization for the first time. The 22-year-old Kelenic, still trying to find his way in the majors, has yet to live up to his immense potential. He’s batting .139 this year and is a lifetime .174 hitter in 409 at-bats. 

Diaz, meanwhile, seems to have found a comfort zone with the first-place Mets, pitching the way he once did for his old team.

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