Mets closest Edwin Diaz rewards Buck Showalter for bold appeal

Seven Braves up and six Braves down, courtesy of Edwin Diaz. Six strikeouts from the best in the world came close on a night the Mets showed power and poise and everything a team would want to show at the start of a five-game series with an oppressive rival.

Diaz has become a terrifying force of nature, a Mo Rivera who throws harder. What chances would you have had on that in Vegas a few years ago?

So yes, Buck Showalter went to kill the summer against Atlanta on Thursday night, asking Diaz to do something managers only ask closers to do in October. Showalter once called on his Yankees starter David Cone to throw 147 pitches in a sudden-death playoff game in Seattle. It was really pushing him.

It was a bit of a push too, in the 105th game of the year. But it was the Braves, the franchise that owned the Mets and National League East for so long. Showalter felt the heartbeat of the match, and after Adam Ottavino barely survived the seventh, he realized he didn’t have another bullpen arm worthy of the moment.

The Mets manager made the right choice. Diaz hadn’t appeared since Friday and only broke his five days off to throw 14 or 15 bullpen shots on Tuesday. This game looked bigger than the schedule suggested, the Yankees had the night off, and the whole town was watching to see if the Mets could land a first-round haymaker against the reigning world champions.

Edwin Diaz
Edwin Diaz recorded the first six-out save of his career.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Diaz expected to go an inning and a third, or an inning and two thirds. With the Mets holding a 6-4 lead, he didn’t expect to go two full innings for the first stoppage of his life with six outs.

No one expected this on that sweltering night inside Citi Field. When the closer emerged from the bullpen door to start the eighth, his trademark trumpets were as quiet as a church at midnight.

“Maybe they were doing a promo or something,” Diaz said with a laugh.

Its good; he heard the song in his head as he began to warm up, pitching to that imaginary beat, at least until the trumpets finally started to sound for real. He got Dansby Swanson on a one-pitch pitch before hitting Matt Olson looking and Austin Riley swinging.

Fans stood and cheered Diaz after he exited the dugout with his glove in his right hand and headed up the mound to open the ninth – the same fans who legitimately tried to boo him out of the city ​​in those dark, early hours of his Mets career.

“A lot of people don’t get over it here, or anywhere else,” Showalter said. “Keep in mind that it wasn’t always aesthetic for him here. That’s what I learned; he took that and pulled from it and actually used it as a springboard.

Edwin Diaz's traditional trump-themed intro music did not play on the regular time.
Edwin Diaz’s traditional trump-themed intro music did not play on the regular time.
Charles Wenzelberg/New York Post

Showalter appreciated that Diaz admitted that almost all of his problems in New York were self-inflicted. The director spoke of the fearlessness and resilience of the closest. That’s why he didn’t hesitate to ask him for six strikeouts on August 4, with four games left in this series and a whole season to go.

Diaz gave up a single to Eddie Rosario to start the ninth, but that was it. Facing a two-out, 3-0 count against Orlando Arcia, Diaz got soft ground on the first base side on a defensive swing. He picked up the remnants of his 28th and final bare-handed throw and raced to first to record the final himself.

It was a fitting end to a tense battle that gave the Mets a 4 ½ game lead in the division. After it was over, Showalter tried to downplay it all. He said five consecutive days off for a reconciliation was almost unheard of. He said if Diaz had struggled in the eighth, he might have replaced him for the ninth.

On the other hand, Showalter conceded, “I think it’s that time of year where we sometimes switch to a different mode of operation.”

Especially when the Braves are in town.

“It’s not easy to put these ghosts to rest,” former Mets manager Bobby Valentine said Thursday afternoon. He should know.

Edwin Diaz, right, is greeted by Buck Showalter after the Mets win over the Braves.
Edwin Diaz, right, is greeted by Buck Showalter after the Mets win over the Braves.
Robert Sabo for NY POST

Bobby V got the Mets job in late 1996 and made two trips to the National League Championship Series and one to the World Series before losing that job after 2002. Atlanta finished ahead of his team, at the first place, every year, and beat his team in their thrilling 1999 NLCS.

Although Queens historians know the Braves have won 16 division titles against both Mets since Atlanta joined the NL East, Valentine suggested that few current Mets “have wounds they’re trying to heal that have been inflicted by the Braves”. He was then reminded that the 2021 Mets led the NL East for nearly three months before Atlanta grabbed it en route to a World Series title.

It was back to ghosts.

“The Mets have a thing,” Valentine said, “and it needs to be exorcised.

“I look at the schedule and see how many games are left with the Braves, and I say I wish there weren’t so many games left with the Braves. Beating them was never like winning a game. It was like winning a game and a half.”

It felt like the Mets had won two games on Thursday night. One against Atlanta, and one against the idea that Edwin Diaz couldn’t do what he just did.

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