When Edwin Díaz struck out Yuli Gurriel and Max Stassi en route to his league-leading 46th save, he didn’t just help the Mariners make history in their first-ever four-game sweep of the Astros; he made a little history for himself, too. Stassi was Díaz’s 100th strikeout of the season, making him the third Mariners reliever to cross the 100-strikeout threshold. With the three more he added in yesterday’s extra-innings effort against Oakland, he came one away from JJ Putz’s record. He needs just nine more to become the single-season club leader. It is August 16th. Edwin Díaz is twenty-four years old.
This list can only cover less than 10% of Edwin’s strikeouts (hey, math I can do!), so there will undoubtedly be omissions. But these are the ones that have stood out the most to me, for whatever reason. Did I miss your favorite? Leave it in the comments!
#10. June 12, 2018: Edwin Ks Mike Trout for his 25th save:
While 25 saves in early June is an impressive marker in and of itself, getting the game-ending strikeout of the best player in baseball is an especially showy way to do it. Even better was Edwin’s quote after:
Diaz on striking out Trout on the 1 slider he threw tonight.— Shannon Drayer (@shannondrayer) June 13, 2018
"When I struck him out he started laughing too. I think he is the best hitter, the best player in the game. I strike him out, the best team happened to finish the game. Today I win."
Edwin Díaz and Mike Trout regard each other as equals in the field of competition, and that is pretty awesome.
#9. June 9, 2017: Edwin strikes out Kevin Pillar on 101 mph
2017 was a terrible suckturtle of a season, and the annual invasion of the Blue Jays fans in Safeco was as terrible as usual, with the Mariners dropping two of three games. The one they won was closed out by Edwin, and he took out some frustrations on poor Kevin Pillar:
Edwin has traded some of his triple-digit action for improved control this season, which is a deal I’ll make any day of the week and twice on Sundays, but man is it fun to see him just unload on unsuspecting Kevin Pillar here.
#8. July 11, 2018: Edwin strikes out Shohei Ohtani for his 8th consecutive out via strikeout
This was Edwin’s second time making a run at a franchise record (which, spoiler alert, he already holds) and also anchored a save during the team’s July swoon—the one game they would win against the Angels in this series. Since Edwin has occasionally struggled against the Angels in the past—most notably during a stunning bullpen implosion in early April of 2017—that makes this win all the sweeter.
Last night, @EdiDiaz44 fanned Shohei Ohtani for his eighth consecutive out via strikeout—tying a Mariners record. AND, it's the second time Sugar has notched such a streak.#GoMariners pic.twitter.com/TGLOvLDqiy— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) July 12, 2018
Our generational talent vs. your generational talent. Ours wins.
#7. August 12, 2018: Díaz notches strikeout #100 on the season
Really, every strikeout from this four-save streak as the Mariners swept the Astros is worthy of praise, but let’s go with #100 for the man who throws 100. (Although here he puts Stassi away on a slider so nasty you should call it Ms. Jackson.)
#6. July 16, 2017: Edwin secures a series road sweep for the first time that season
2018 is clearly going to be over-represented on this list while aforementioned suckturtle of 2017 might be less well-represented, but providing joy in a season marred by injury and ineffectiveness should be weighted more heavily. The Mariners didn’t achieve a road sweep until mid-July last year, thanks in part to Edwin and in part to the White Sox being very bad. A shaky start by Andrew Moore led to the White Sox jumping out way ahead, but the Mariners battled back, tying the game and forcing extras. A key 10th inning home run by Nelson Cruz put the Mariners ahead and put Edwin in place to lock down the series sweep for them. He responded by striking out the side, mowing down Jose Abreu on three pitches, striking out Todd Frazier on 99 off the plate, and taking down Avisail Garcia with a nasty slider.
#5. July 6, 2016: Díaz K’s Colby Rasmus to record a franchise record 11 consecutive outs via strikeout
The payoff for that spoiler alert earlier at last! Edwin posted stellar numbers in 2016, collecting 88 strikeouts in just a hair shy of 53 innings pitched. Teams might have had scouting reports on the young fireballer, but much like no one expects the Spanish Inquisition, it’s a big difference seeing numbers on a page and stepping into the box facing down the dragon Animorph himself, as Colby Rasmus would find out:
#4. March 29, 2018: Edwin works out of a jam on Opening Day
In a lot of ways, the Mariners’ Opening Day victory against Cleveland was a microcosm of the season: the Mariners did just enough offensively against a tough pitcher in Corey Kluber and passed the game on to Díaz to lock it down. However, unlike the shutdown Edwin we’ve been spoiled by, this one faltered a little. After striking out Yonder Alonso, Díaz hit Edwin Encarnacion to put the tying run at first in the form of somehow-still-speedy Rajai Davis as a pinch runner. Díaz then balked Davis over to second, putting the runner in scoring position, before he grazed Lonnie Chisenhall on the pantleg in a 1-2 count. Davis would later steal third to put the tying run just 90 feet away with no one out. Seattle’s young closer looked undeniably shaky and the lead the Mariners had guarded jealously over nine innings looked in danger of slipping away.
But. This is 2018 Edwin Díaz. After a mound visit from pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, Díaz battled back from a 3-0 count to nail Yan Gomes on a nasty slider, leaving only Tyler Naquin—the victim of Díaz’s first-ever strikeout—standing between him and the Mariners securing an Opening Day victory. Naquin fell behind 0-2 quickly bringing Safeco to its feet and Nelson Cruz to assume his now-familiar role as hype man:
Back to the wall, Edwin made his pitch:
The Francisco Lindor strikeout where Lindor grins at his countryman might be the more enduring image of this series, but this performance earns points as a growth chart for Seattle’s young closer.
#3. August 2, 2016: Díaz strikes out the side in his debut as the Mariners’ closer
Edwin as closer wasn’t a matter of if, but when. After Steve Cishek blew two games back-to-back, on August 1st, 2016, Servais announced Díaz would be temporarily stepping in to the closer role. He’d have a chance to step into the role immediately with the Red Sox in town, and Edwin would deliver, striking out the side to preserve a 5-4 win.
“A new era is born here in Seattle,” shouts Dave Sims. It certainly was. Díaz tallied his 50th K during that outing, in just his 25th inning pitched. That’s the fastest any pitcher has gotten to 50 strikeouts since the 19th century. And Sugar was just getting started.
#2. March 20, 2017: Edwin says hello, World Baseball Classic
EAfter his dazzling 2016 debut, Mariners fans certainly knew who Edwin Díaz was, but as the M’s missed the post-season in particularly heartbreaking fashion that year, the baseball world outside of Seattle was deprived of the chance to meet the young flamethrower with the spirit-breaking slider. That was remedied in the World Baseball Classic, where Edwin served as Team Puerto Rico’s closer—quite a promotion for someone who had been toiling in Double-A just nine months prior. Once again, Edwin rewarded manager s faith in him with a dominant outing. Team Puerto Rico made it all the way to the semifinals of the WBC to face Team Netherlands, and Díaz turned in a performance that sparkled. In a 3-3 tie in extra innings, Díaz worked two clean innings to help Puerto Rico hang on for the victory. He struck out the side in his first inning of work, getting fellow major leaguer After his dazzling 2016 debut, Mariners fans certainly knew who Edwin Díaz was, but as the M’s missed the post-season in particularly heartbreaking fashion that year, the baseball world outside of Seattle was deprived of the chance to meet the young flamethrower with the spirit-breaking slider. That was remedied in the World Baseball Classic, where Edwin served as Team Puerto Rico’s closer—quite a promotion for someone who had been toiling in Double-A just nine months prior. Once again, Edwin rewarded manager Edwin Rodriguez’s faith in him with a dominant outing. Team Puerto Rico made it all the way to the semifinals of the WBC to face Team Netherlands, and Díaz turned in a performance that sparkled. In a 3-3 tie in extra innings, Díaz worked two clean innings to help Puerto Rico hang on for the victory. He struck out the side in his first inning of work, getting fellow major leaguer Jurickson Profar and later Jonathan Schoop swinging. But sandwiched between them was Wladimir Balentien, who had already singled, doubled, and homered in the game. Balentien stared out at Díaz after fouling off a challenging fastball, and then let Edwin hear about it when the next pitch of the at-bat tailed up and in on him. How did Edwin respond? By painting the black at 99, of course.
Also I would be remiss not to mention that this particular stride off the mound caused Tee to make one of my favorite things ever:
#1. June 6, 2016: A star is born before our eyes
Edwin Díaz made his debut on June 6, 2016, a chilly night in Safeco with a mere 15, 824 people in attendance. The game itself was a disappointment—a sleepy 3-1 loss to Cleveland—but Edwin was a revelation, throwing just 11 pitches, 10 strikes, and lighting up the radar gun on his first ever strikeout:
It’s been so long since Mariners fans have been able to see an actual homegrown prospect come into a game and be as electric as Edwin was that night. Every person I’ve spoken to who was in attendance that night talks about being there for the beginning of something special. And that’s Edwin. Special. Electric. The bad guy. Sugar is ours, and it is so, so sweet.