NEW YORK – As the Mets’ closer, Edwin Diaz normally pitches the ninth inning. So when the bullpen doors opened after the seventh inning Thursday and Diaz jogged out to the mound, Citi Field’s giant screen was still showing a guessing game. Without his typical opening music – Blasterjaxx and Timmy Trumpet’s popular “Narco” – Diaz began humming the song in his head, trying to get into rhythm with the song.
Eventually, “Narco” began to play, allowing the audience to sing along with Diaz, as if helping him prepare for the moment. He probably didn’t need the help. Without too much trouble, Diaz dispatched the heart of the Braves’ lineup in order to preserve a two-run lead. He then returned to the mound for the ninth – again under the rhythm of the trumpets – to complete the first six-out save of his career. in a 6-4 win against division rivals.
“We are fighting for first place,” Diaz said. “We have to do whatever it takes.”
In those tasks, Díaz had a lot of company on Thursday. Tyler Naquin became the first Mets player to hit two home runs in his home debut for the team, joining Pete Alonso and Daniel Vogelbach in a four-run attack. Carlos Carrasco extended his scoreless streak to a career-high 22 2/3 innings during a quality outing. And the Mets, in this way, extended the advantage over the Braves to 4.5 games.
But the most pressing moments ended at the hands of Diaz. If the importance of the five-game series against Atlanta wasn’t clear before the day began, the way Diaz was used accentuated it.
All season long, the manager has spoken of his desire — and his closer’s willingness — to call Diaz up earlier in games if the situation warrants. So with three sluggers in Dansby Swanson, Matt Olson and Austin Riley ready to go to bat in the eighth inning of a game the Mets were leading by two runs, Showalter called his best reliever.
With five days off before the game — “a rare sight for a closer,” as Showalter put it — Diaz thought his manager might be asking for four or five outs. But similar to what happened to the Citi Field audio operator, Diaz didn’t know two innings was a possibility until later, when the phone rang in the bottom of the seventh.
In the eighth, he looked typical Diaz, striking out Olson and Riley and throwing nine of his 11 pitches for strikes. In the ninth, he gave up a leadoff hit, threw a wild pitch and put Orlando Arcia on a 3-0 count, before Arcia swung into a 99 mph fastball to end the game with a ground ball. of Diaz himself.
“He needed to pitch, and everything came together so we could use him more,” Showalter said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen (on Friday). We had a chance to win a game against a great team today and we did it.”
When asked if he would have done the same against a lower-carat opponent, Showalter disputed the point, explaining that Diaz’s extra days of rest were the main factor.
In the final stretch, Díaz will continue to play a key role in the most important moments. Come October, Diaz said, he thinks he can complete four-out, five-out or six-out saves — whatever Showalter needs.
But the Mets have to get there first, which requires a mixture of caution and aggressiveness on Showalter’s part in handling his closer. On Thursday, they needed one of the toughest saves for Diaz this season. And on Friday?
“I’m pretty sure he’ll be free tomorrow,” Carrasco said.
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Diaz relentless in six-out save vs. braves