The Mariner game yesterday was prolonged and brutal. The Mariners played chicken with losing throughout the game, spending several precarious innings seemingly on the brink of disaster. The ninth, tenth, and eleventh innings were all agonizing.
But once the game reached extra innings, there was one player in the back of everyone’s mind: Edwin Díaz. I don’t blame you if you wanted to scream at Scott Servais in the eleventh inning when James Pazos came in and promptly walked Jed Lowrie on four pitches, putting the winning run on second base and bringing Khris Davis to the plate. You might have tried to will a pitching change. Scott. Put. Edwin In. But of course, Scott did not.
For better or worse, Scott Servais refuses to use Edwin Díaz in a non-save situation (except in a tie game in the ninth inning at home). While that may not always be the best decision process-wise, it did lead to a strangely comforting feeling during yesterday’s game.
It almost felt as if the Mariners were the home team, and like any run they managed to scrape across might as well have been a walk-off. Once they did score, if they did score, Edwin Díaz was waiting. And this season, Edwin Díaz has been the closest possible thing to a guarantee.
In a sport (and, to be honest, a world) rife with volatility and happenstance, certainty is a rarity. The few things that we can count on to be consistent become our sources of comfort. Our anchors. If ever I find myself shaking in bed, unable to sleep, I can always open a TinTin comic. Or The Hobbit. Or watch Parks and Rec. Those things are unchanging constants, easy sources of comfort, and remind me that I’m still me.
Such it is with Edwin Díaz and a close Mariner game. For however as in-question the outcome of a game has looked, once the Mariners have a lead and Edwin Díaz is pitching, it’s over. It’s just easy enjoyment. And boy, is Edwin enjoyable.
He began the twelfth inning last night by getting Matt Olson to an 0-2 count before ultimately giving up a single. It can’t be too easy. No Sugar is that good without a little spice.
Edwin stared down Stephen Piscotty and threw a 97 MPH fastball over the plate. Piscotty watched it go by, eyes wide. Edwin followed with two sliders outside. Piscotty missed one but then fouled the second off to stay alive. With Piscotty sufficiently off-balance, Edwin reached back and dared him to hit a 98 MPH fastball directly down the middle.
Next up was Marcus Semien, and Edwin came directly at him. Edwin threw a fastball over the plate, and Semien watched strike one. A second fastball was fouled off for strike two. The third pitch was the slider, and you can really see how unfair this was for Semien.
Down to their final out, the A’s sent up Chad Pinder. Pinder, like Piscotty and Semien before him, started the at bat by watching a pitch. A fastball outside was ball one. Edwin, clearly wanting this to take as little time as possible, put a fastball directly in the center of the plate at 97 MPH. Pinder couldn’t catch up. A slider toward the bottom of the zone was barely fouled off for strike two.
Like a shark sensing blood in the water, Edwin rocketed a fastball high and inside toward Pinder at 98 MPH. It was all Pinder could do to wave at it.
I don’t know if I’ve ever seen three consecutive Major League hitters look quite that helpless, and I watched the 2010 Mariners religiously.
The 2018 Mariners have had a tumultuous season. With various short-term injuries through the season to key players, it’s been all they could do to get to their current position. The one constant, however, has been Edwin. Game in, and game out, he’s been their closest thing to a sure thing.