No opponent has proved tougher to solve for Mariners closer Edwin Diaz than the Los Angeles Angels — even though he has more career saves against the Angels (seven) than any opponent.
"With the Angels, I’m trying to figure it out," he said. "I think they see the ball pretty good against me. But I think if I make my pitch, everything will be fine.
Diaz has a 7.36 ERA in nine appearances against the Angels while allowing six runs on nine hits and four walks in 7 1/3 innings. He gave up home runs to Kole Calhoun in each of the first two games in the current series.
"They just hit my mistakes," Diaz said. "I missed with pitches to Calhoun, and he’s hit the ball pretty good. I left my fastball in the middle, and he’s a good fastball hitter. The same thing the night before."
The Angels are batting .300 against Diaz with a .400 on-base percentage and a .33 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage). Those are the best numbers posted by any American League opponent.
"I think every player has that one team that he does really well against," manager Scott Servais said, "or that one team that, for whatever reason, is really a struggle. I don’t think you want to make too big of a deal out of it."
It’s not unusual for even top closers to have one or two opponents they struggle against. Just check the two pitchers whose names are on the American League and National League reliever of the year awards.
Mariano Rivera had a 3.75 ERA in 56 games against the Angels. His worst mark against any other AL club was 3.04 in 136 games against Baltimore.
Trevor Hoffman struggled against St. Louis (4.09) and Cincinnati (4.05). Every other National League opponent was at 3.61 or lower.
No matter what the numbers say, Servais said Diaz will continue to get the ball in save situations against the Angels.
"He’s our closer," Servais said. "If we need the final three outs of the game. If he’s available, we’re going to put him in there."
Diaz recorded the 1,500th save in franchise history Wednesday night when he closed out an 8-7 victory over the Angels. It was his 23rd career save.
Kazuhiro Sasaki remains the franchise’s all-time leader with 129 from 2000-03.
There are 126 different pitchers who have at least one save in the franchise’s 41-year history, including Steve Cishek (25), Nick Vincent (three) and Hisashi Iwakuma (two).
Bullpen coach Mike Hampton had one save as a rookie in 1993.
Right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma continued to receive treatment on his left knee after getting hit Wednesday by a line drive off the bat of Andrelton Simmons.
Iwakuma said he expects to make his next scheduled start Tuesday at Philadelphia.
***Rehabbing reliever Steve Cishek just played catch Thursday but will throw another bullpen workout Friday in his recovery from October surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip.
The Mariners officially recalled Cishek from a minor-league rehab assignment Wednesday, but he will likely go back out on a new assignment after Friday’s bullpen workout. Rehab sessions are limited to 30 days at a time for pitchers..
***There’s not much new regarding right-hander Felix Hernandez (bursitis in shoulder) and outfielder Mitch Haniger (grade 2 strain in right oblique muscle) — and that’s viewed by club officials as good news.
Both are progressing as expected from injuries suffered April 25 in Detroit. The Mariners previously cited a recovery timetable of three-to-four weeks for both players.
SPEED AND DEFENSE
Speed: The Mariners entered Thursday leading the American League with 24 stolen bases. Texas ranked second with 22. Jarrod Dyson shared the individual league lead with eight steals. Houston’s Jose Altuve also had eight.
Defense: The Mariners’ outfielders had a combined plus-12 runs saved through Wednesday, according to www.Fangraphs.com. Only Tampa Bay, at plus-13, had a better rating among AL clubs.
Guillermo Heredia and injured Haniger were plus-4, while Dyson and Leonys Martin were plus-3. Martin is currently playing at Triple-A Tacoma after accepting an outright assignment when he cleared waivers.
FOURTH AND COUNTING
Robinson Cano’s homer in the first inning Wednesday was the 283rd of his career, which moved him past Hall of Fame Ryne Sandberg and into fourth place on the all-time list among players whose primary position is second base.
Still ahead of Cano: Jeff Kent (377) and two more Hall of Famers, Rogers Hornsby (301) and Craig Biggio (291).
Three things to note heading into Friday's pitching matchup between right-handler Yovani Gallardo and Texas right-hander You Darvish:
***Gallardo pitched for the Rangers in 2015 and is 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA in two career starts against them. Darvish is 5-3 with a 4.45 ERA in 10 career starts against the Mariners but 0-3 with a 7.71 ERA in three starts at Safeco Field.
***Shin-Soo Choo is 1-for-14 with seven strikeouts in his career against Gallardo, while Elvis Andrus is 0-for-7 with three strikeouts. Carlos Gomez and Nomar Mazara are each 2-for-3.
***Kyle Seager is 9-for-27 with four doubles in his career against Darvish, while Danny Valencia is 5-for-13, and Robinson Cano is 6-for-19. Nelson Cruz is hitless in six at-bats.
Reliever James Pazos turns 26 on Friday…reliever Emilio Pagan is the first pitcher in Mariners history who was born in South Carolina…Cano leads all American League players with nine go-ahead RBIs.
It was 26 years ago Friday — May 5, 1991 — that Greg Briley ended the longest game in Kingdome history by hitting a two-run, walk-off homer in the 16th inning against Rich Monteleone for a 5-4 victory over the New York Yankees.
Briley did not hit another homer in 320 at-bats over the remainder of the season.
Friday is Mariners Beard Hat Night.
The first first 20,000 fans through the gates of Safeco Field will receive a navy, gray and teal knit cap with ear flaps and a fluffy, gray, detachable beard.
The Mariners say they’re "perfect for those chilly spring nights at the ballpark."
It’s also Brewery Night. Local beer is available at the pregame event in the Outside Corner on the View Level.
A weekend traffic note for all three games against Texas: Eastbound traffic on Interstate 90 will be reduced to one lane between Seattle and Bellevue. Traffic will be diverted to the express lanes.
The Mariners (in understated fashion) say "fans should be prepared for some delays."
The Mariners and Rangers open a three-game series at 7:10 p.m. Friday at Safeco Field when right-handler Yovani Gallardo (1-3 with a 5.08 ERA) opposes Texas right-handler Yu Darvish (3-2, 3.03).
The game can be seen on Root Sports Northwest and heard on 710 ESPN and the Mariners Radio Network, including mariners.com (for subscribers to MLB.tv).
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners