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. 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.”