A step back from Edwin Diaz could not have come at a more inconvenient time for the New York Mets.
The closer continued his rocky tenure in New York with a pair of blown saves during a five-game set against the last-place Washington Nationals, including a crushing walk-off loss on Monday in which they held a 3-2 lead heading into the bottom of the ninth.
Diaz has yielded four runs on four hits with three walks over his last two appearances prior to Tuesday night’s series opener against the Miami Marlins — which was just 1.1 innings of work — and it was mostly self-inflicted.
He walked the first two batters in the ninth inning on Monday with the Mets clinging to a one-run lead before yielding the tying single to Andrew Stevenson and a walk-off roller up the middle to Carter Kieboom.
It raised his 2021 ERA on the road to 7.71 while his home ERA is at 1.59.
“The command. Walks have killed him,” Mets manager Luis Rojas said. “That mixed into the mistake pitch… these things are going to happen. You’re going to miss a spot, but the walks hurt him.”
It also appears that this time of year doesn’t do much for Diaz, either. Over his first two full seasons with the Mets — in 2019 and 2020 — Diaz has allowed a combined 18 runs in 28.1 innings of work (5.77 ERA) in the months of August and September with 11 walks and four blown saves.
“I’ve got to command the fastball better to get good results,” Diaz admitted.
His previous two outings unraveled a solid stretch in which he didn’t allow a run with just two hits given up in 10 innings of work over his previous nine outings. A glaring difference in his success was just one walk allowed.
That at least provided some indication that Diaz can be the Mets’ lock-down guy when it mattered most, but Monday was an enormous missed opportunity, as the Mets could have moved to within three games of first place in the National League East behind the Atlanta Braves.
Instead, they entered Tuesday night’s opener against the Marlins four games back of the division lead with Rojas ensuring that there won’t be any changes to the closer’s role.
“Edwin has done it for us all year. We’re not making drastic changes,” Rojas said. “The command is something he can bounce back from… Just the last two games he’s done it. For sure he can work on things like this. We have other guys throwing the ball well in the bullpen and they can come in during high-leverage situations and keep the game close. It goes for our entire bullpen and Edwin as well.”