Mariners’ Diaz can pass Thigpen with one final save

The Sports Xchange

September 30, 2018 at 2:00 am.

When Seattle’s Edwin Diaz took the mound in a save situation Saturday night, it was the first time in 11 games he had such an opportunity.

Such is the life of a closer.

Despite some two-out drama, Diaz struck out the side in the ninth inning of a 4-1 victory over the visiting Texas Rangers for his 57th save, tying Bobby Thigpen of the 1990 Chicago White Sox for second on Major League Baseball’s season list.

After striking out the first two batters in the inning, the Rangers loaded the bases on an error, a hit batter and pinch-hitter Joey Gallo’s infield single. But Diaz fanned Jurickson Profar for the final out.

“It’s an unbelievable number,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said of 57 saves. “It’s so hard to do that. All the one-run saves, the workload, staying focused all year long … it takes a special talent. It’s been really fun to watch him all year long. It’s a blessing to have him at the end of the bullpen. …

“When the bell rings in the ninth inning, he’s ready to get it on.”

In the Mariners’ previous 10 games, they won four times — three by blowouts and the other in 11 innings.

That thwarted Diaz’s bid to reach Francisco Rodriguez’s major-league record of 62 saves set in 2008.

“It’s been tough,” Diaz told MLB.com. “I want to pitch, I want to save games. I got used to seeing close games every night, now we’re winning by a lot. But that’s fine. It’s a long season. When they give me the ball, I’m ready to go.”

It appeared Diaz might get a chance Friday night, when the Rangers rallied from a nine-run deficit to close within 9-6 in the eighth inning.

While Diaz was warming up in the bullpen, the Mariners scored three runs in the bottom of the inning to nullify the save opportunity.

“That’s fine. That’s part of the game,” Diaz said. “I can’t be mad, I have to support my team.”
Diaz said he has already surpassed his own expectations.

“My goal was 40 saves before the season started,” he said. “I’m at (57) and it’s pretty special to me. I worked hard to get ready for this season, and I feel like I helped the team win a lot of games.”

Diaz might get one more chance Sunday afternoon when the Mariners and Rangers meet in the regular-season finale.

Texas right-hander Yovani Gallardo (8-7, 6.40 ERA) is scheduled to take on Seattle left-hander Roenis Elias (2-1, 2.93).

Gallardo is 3-2 with a 2.54 ERA in five career starts against the Mariners; Elias is 2-2 with a 2.37 ERA in seven previous appearances against the Rangers, including five starts.

The season series between the Mariners (88-73) and the last-place Rangers (67-94) is tied 9-9 heading into the finale. Seattle has a winning record against every other team in the American League West this season.

Rangers interim manager Don Wakamatsu said 21-year veteran Adrian Beltre, who is considering retirement, will start at third base Sunday after serving as the designated hitter each of the previous two games.

“I think it’s only befitting that he does that, especially because he played here (in Seattle from 2005 to 2009), too,” Wakamatsu said. “He talks about finishing strong and finishing the season, and here he is. He wants to play third base on the last day of the season.”