Edwin Diaz pitching like All-Star Mets expected him to be


The Mets won’t play the Angels again this season, but it’s still possible Edwin Diaz has not seen the last of Mike Trout this year. 

With perhaps the best hitter in baseball representing the tying run with one out in Sunday’s eighth inning, the Mets turned to their shutdown closer, who pumped a nasty slider and two 99 mph fastballs past Trout. The Mets needed five outs from Diaz, who did not risk allowing any bloop hits: Each of the five was a strikeout. 

Through 2 ¹/₂ dominant months, Diaz’s fourth season in Queens might be his best. 

“I feel great,” the 28-year-old said after the Mets escaped their West Coast road trip having gone 5-5. “I’m able to do my job in any situation they ask me.” 

For the first time since 2018 and first time as a Met, the league may ask him to take part in the All-Star Game. 

Edwin Diaz is a strong candidate to make the All-Star Game.

Diaz left California off the league pace with 12 saves (in 15 opportunities), which was far behind the Brewers’ Josh Hader (19 saves) and the Braves’ Kenley Jansen (18) and Padres’ Taylor Rogers (18). But the Mets closer sports a 2.13 ERA with maybe the most unhittable stuff in the game. He has averaged 17.05 strikeouts per nine innings; best among big-league pitchers with at least 20 innings pitched, Milwaukee’s Devin Williams was second at 14.63. 

There will be plenty of bullpen competition for the July 19 event, especially because relievers such as the Pirates’ David Bednar and Diamondbacks’ Joe Mantiply could sneak in to ensure each team is represented. 

But Diaz, who has always had the stuff but fallen victim to too many home runs in the past, has looked like the All-Star the Mets traded for and one whom Buck Showalter wants on the mound in the game’s biggest moments. 

“I step back and go, ‘OK, you’re lucky to be here watching a really good pitcher against obviously a great hitter,’ ” the manager said of Diaz, who, after his faceoff with Trout, has pitched in 24 wins and one loss this season. “Today the pitcher won. … The thing about Edwin is he welcomes the challenge.” 

By FanGraphs’ measurement, Diaz finished the series with the Angels as the 10th-most valuable reliever in a crowded NL field. For a team that will bring the best record (40-22) in the National League into a home series with the Brewers beginning Tuesday, the Mets have surprisingly few All-Star shoo-ins. 

Pete Alonso’s 57 RBIs lead the league, but the Cardinals’ Paul Goldschmidt is having a better season. Plus, Freddie Freeman has built-in advantages for a game that will be played at his home park of Dodger Stadium and will be managed by his former manager, Atlanta’s Brian Snitker. Alonso may need the NL to carry three first basemen to avoid a snub. 

Jeff McNeil is having an excellent season, but statistically he has not been as great as the Cardinals’ Tommy Edman or the Marlins’ Jazz Chisholm at second base. 

Perhaps Francisco Lindor’s star power will boost him to Los Angeles, but the Dodgers’ Trea Turner and Braves’ Dansby Swanson have outperformed him so far. 

Edwin Diaz reacts after his 5-out save against the Angels.
Edwin Diaz reacts after his five-out save against the Angels.

With a strong few weeks, Starling Marte or Brandon Nimmo could crack into the National League outfield, but it won’t be easy considering Mookie Betts is deserving and Juan Soto is a near certainty, while Bryce Harper likely will be the starting DH. 

Carlos Carrasco (7-2, 3.93 ERA) and Taijuan Walker (4-2, 3.08) may have arguments, but there were 10 qualified NL starters with sub-3.00 ERAs entering play Monday. 

The Mets have thrived with depth, which does not lend itself to many individual accolades. But if Diaz, who has not allowed a run and struck out 14 in his past 6 ²/₃ innings, has a strong few weeks, he could become a second-time All-Star. 

Last season, hitters batted .195 against him. This season, the number has been cut down to .180 (and just .138 against his slider). 

“I think command of my pitches,” Diaz said about his biggest improvement this campaign. “Continuing to command my fastball and slider — the slider has been great for me.”

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