Much of the attention, justifiably, in the Mariners’ recent surge focuses on their attack (which leads the majors this month in scoring) and their rotation (which has a 1.41 ERA in their eight-game winning streak).
It’s easy to overlook an reenergized Edwin Diaz at the back end of the bullpen.
Since allowing a walk-off homer in an Aug. 30 loss at Texas, Diaz has five saves in six scoreless outings. He has permitted just one hit in that span while allowing no walks and striking out seven over 5 1/3 innings.
"After that (Texas) game," he said, "I set my mind that I’ve got to try to win every game. Those things are going to happen. We lost that game, and I reset my mind to try to attack the hitters even more."
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Diaz hasn’t only been effective; he’s also been efficient.
He threw more than 11 pitches only once in his last six appearances. The exception was a 16-pitch outing on Sept. 8 in a one-two-three inning against the Rangers that included two strikeouts.
In contrast, Diaz averaged 26.8 pitches over his previous five outings.
"Eddie continues to throw the ball well," manager Scott Servais said. "He hasn’t backed off. It hasn’t really bothered him when he’s had a rough one, which is great to see with a young pitcher."
While Diaz leads all relievers with 16 saves since Aug. 1, when he replaced Steve Cishek as the Mariners’ closer, it wasn’t until his current streak that he flashed the unhittable form that he routinely displayed in a setup role.
Diaz had a 1.80 ERA through 24 appearances prior to becoming the closer, but that more than doubled — to 3.95 — in 13 August outings despite registering saves in 11 of 12 opportunities.
Now, when it matters most, he’s regained his earlier form. His last three saves required that he protect one-run leads on the road and, each time, Diaz worked a one-two-three inning.
The only difference, he said, is mind-set. Instead of trying to paint the corners, he now employs a more-aggressive approach.
"Go after them with my fastball," Diaz said. "I just try to throw my fastball in the middle and then work with my slider."
No messing around.
The tentative plan is for the Mariners to continue rolling their rotation through the final 16 games, which puts Felix Hernandez to pitch the final game of the season Oct. 2 against Oakland at Safeco Field.
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That current rotation also means James Paxton would be lined up to start a play-in game for the final wild-card berth, if necessary, on Oct. 3. Such a scenario would position Ariel Miranda to start the wild-card game on Oct. 4.
If the Mariners qualify for the wild-card game without the need of a play-in game, they would have a choice between Paxton and Miranda — unless they are able to pull Hernandez from his scheduled Oct. 2 start.
"Since they tied the all-time MLB record for wins in a season with 116 in 2001," the article by Rob Arthur noted, "the Mariners have assembled a handful of competitive teams, winning between 85 and 93 games in a season five times since.
"None of those seasons are good enough to guarantee a playoff spot, but each should have given the team a reasonable chance to back into a wild card or steal a weak division. And yet, Seattle has nothing to show for those seasons."
Arthur’s analysis contends the Mariners should have reached postseason 4.2 times since 1998. Instead, they did so only twice — in 2000 and 2001, when they reached the American League Championship Series.
That minus-2.2 rating is the highest among the 30 clubs. San Francisco and Boston are tied for second at minus-1.6. The luckiest club? St. Louis at plus-2.2. Only two clubs got what they deserved: Kansas City (two) and Miami (one).
The Mariners are on pace this year to win 87 games but entered the weekend trailing Baltimore and Toronto by two games in the race for the AL’s final wild-card berth.
MARINERS HONOR ELLIS, LINCOLN
Plans called for John Ellis to throw out the ceremonial first pitch Friday after being presented with the Mariners’ new Franchise Achievement Award in recognition of his efforts in his former role as chairman and chief executive officer.
Ellis and Howard Lincoln, who succeeded Ellis in those duties in 2000, are the first recipients of the award. Lincoln turned over those responsibilities earlier this year to John Stanton after a realignment within the ownership group.
Lincoln received his award earlier this month.
"They both played a key role," Stanton said, "in the formation of the current ownership group that purchased the Mariners in 1992 and blocked the team’s relocation to Tampa. They literally helped save baseball in Seattle."
Double-A Jackson completed a three-game sweep Thursday in the Southern League championship series with an 11-3 victory at Mississippi (Braves).
Right fielder Tyler O’Neill went 3-for-6 and was picked as the series’ most valuable player. Catcher Tyler Marlette went 2-for-4 with three RBIs.
The Generals are the second Mariners’ affiliate to win a championship. Peoria previously won the Arizona Rookie League crown. The Mariners’ player-development contract with Jackson expires at the end of this season.
***Lo-A Clinton had an open date Friday in its Midwest League best-of-five championship series after Thursday’s 4-0 loss to Great Lakes (Dodgers). The series, which is tied 1-1, resumes Saturday at Great Lakes.
The LumberKings are the only Mariners affiliate who have not completed their season.
Triple-A Tacoma outfielder Boog Powell will look to re-start his career this winter by playing for Aguilas in the Dominican Winter League. Mariners third-base coach Manny Acta serves as that club’s vice president for baseball operations.
Powell, 23, received an 80-game suspension June 23 after testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance. He was batting .270 at the time with a .326 on-base percentage in 64 games at Tacoma.
The Mariners acquired Powell from Tampa Bay in a Nov. 5, 2015 trade that also netted starting pitcher Nathan Karns and reliever C.J. Riefenhauser in return for shortstop Brad Miller, first baseman Logan Morrison and reliever Danny Farquhar.
***Clinton outfielder Luis Liberato, a Dominican native, was picked by Escogido as the 15th overall selection in the Dominican Winter League’s first-year player draft.
Liberato, 20, batted .258 this season with a .340 on-base percentage in 100 games for the LumberKings. The Mariners signed Liberato as a 16-year-old in 2012.
The Mariners spent a little more $500,000 on each of their top two international signings this season, according to minorleagueball.com.
Dominican outfielder Luis Veloz, rated by Baseball America as the No. 29 international prospect, received $525,000. He gets high marks for power potential but scouts point to a flaw in his swing that makes him susceptible to strikeouts.
Venezuelan shortstop Alexander Campos, ranked 49th, received $575,000. He is more polished than Veloz in part due to extensive international experience. He has plus speed, but his diminutive size (5 feet 10, 150 pounds) raised concerns.
It was 19 years ago Saturday — Sept. 17, 1997 — that Edgar Martinez reached 100 runs, 100 RBIs and 100 walks for a third consecutive season when he scored a run in a 5-4 loss at Texas.
Martinez finished the 1997 season with 104 runs, 108 RBIs and 119 walks. He went 121-113-116 in 1995, and 121-103-123 in 1996.
The 100-100-100 milestone has been achieved on only two other occasions in franchise history: Jay Buhner (104-109-119) in 1997, and Alex Rodriguez (134-132-100) in 2000.
First baseman Adam Lind continues to nurse a sore right index finger, which he injured on a diving play Sept. 11 at Oakland. Lind took part in batting practice and could be available to return to the lineup as soon as Saturday…Triple-A Tacoma hitting coach Scott Brosius will be in uniform this weekend as an extra coach. Clubs are permitted to add one in-uniform coach in September. Tacoma manager Pat Listach is expected to fill that role later this month for a series at Houston
The Mariners and Astros continue their three-game weekend series at 6:10 p.m. Saturday at Safeco Field. Left-hander James Paxton (4-6 with a 3.97 ERA) will face Houston right-hander Mike Fiers (10-7, 4.64).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on the Mariners Radio Network, which includes 710 ESPN.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners