It’s the middle of June and Edwin Diaz is well ahead of pace, remarkably, for an end-of-season haircut.
Not his own. Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais bet him earlier in the season that he’d get the same waves shaved into the side of his head that Diaz has if the Mariners’ closer saves at least 50 games this season.
Diaz recored save No. 25 with a 1-2-3 ninth inning on Tuesday in the Mariners’ 6-3 victory, with Diaz striking out Mike Trout for the final out.
Servais was asked Wednesday about Diaz’s saves pace.
“I’m aware,” he said with a wry smile.
“Guys are starting to talk about barbers and different things like that. But I’m OK with that.”
Diaz actually is on pace for 60 saves, if he keeps this up. Only the Angels’ Francisco Rodriguez has at least 60 saves in a season, recording 62 in 2008. And a closer accumulating 50 saves in a season has occurred just 16 times in baseball history, with the save becoming an official MLB statistic in 1969.
And since Diaz allowed four runs in a four-run loss to the Rangers (taking a loss) and another run his next appearance against the Rays (blown save), he has pitched 6 1/3 scoreless with six saves and eight strikeouts, holding opponents to a .190 batting average.
“He’s gotten back to establishing his fastball,” Servais said. “You’ve seen more fastballs out of him lately and that’s been by design. And it’s helped him get a feel for the slider.”
Servais made their 24-year-old closer from Puerto Rico unavailable for Wednesday’s series finale against the Los Angeles Angels because he had pitched three consecutive games entering the day and four of the previous five games, including a four-out save against the Rays on Friday.
Diaz leads the majors in saves and with four more than Red Sox’s Craig Kimbrel (21). He was also second in the major leagues among relievers in strikeouts, with 58.
Two more strikeouts before next month’s All-Star break, and Diaz will become the first American League pitcher with 25 saves and 60 strikeouts before the midsummer classic, something he appears a lock to be competing in.
But the Mariners have also used him in 36 games so far this season after appearing in 66 all of last season (with 34 saves).
“His efficiency has been amazing, it really has,” Servais said. “But we have to be smart.
“Fortunately he hasn’t had a lot of those 20-25 pitch innings. They’ve been low, but we want to be smart with this whole thing. We have a lot of ball games left to play.”
Third baseman Kyle Seager was a late scratch from the Mariners’ 1:10 p.m. game against the Angels in the series finale. The Mariners announced that it was for a “personal issue” and not an injury.
Seaer was hitting .226 with 12 home runs and 41 RBI entering the game. He was originally in the starting lineup.
Vincent, Nicasio update
Servais said Wednesday that he is hopeful right-hander Nick Vincent (groin strain) and right-hander Juan Nicasio (knee effusion) will be healthy and ready to be activated from the disabled list by their next road trip – either at the end of their series early next week in New York against the Yankees, or later in the week in Boston.
Though, Servais is notoriously positive on these sorts of things.
He said Vincent is likely to throw a bullpen session either Friday or Saturday after suffering a setback in Monday’s bullpen session. If that goes well, Vincent would throw one rehab appearance after that before being activated.
He said Nicasio is likely to throw off the mound on Saturday. Same goes for him. If that goes well, he’ll head to a rehab assignment before rejoining the Mariners’ bullpen.
The Mariners have used a seven-man bullpen in the meantime.
“When you’re winning these close games and running multiple guys through there it does get you a little thin,” Servais said. “I’m fine with it right now. But it’s something we’ll address later.”
The Mariners begin a four-game home series against the Boston Red Sox, the only team in the majors with more wins than Seattle, on Thursday.
Right-hander Felix Hernandez (6-5, 5.70 ERA) will be opposed by Red Sox left-hander David Price (7-4, 4.00 ERA) at 7:10 p.m. at Safeco Field.
The rest of the probables: LHP James Paxton (6-1, 3.02 ERA) vs. RHP Rick Porcello (8-3, 3.54 ERA); LHP Wade LeBlanc (2-0, 3.00 ERA) vs. RHP Steven Wright (2-0, 1.21 ERA); and RHP Mike Leake (7-3, 4.26 ERA) vs. LHP Eduardo Rodriguez (7-1, 3.68 ERA).
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