The cheering you heard from Citi Field today came from Chipper Jones’s cutout.
Taking a page out of the first half of last year, Edwin Diaz – who looked pretty dominate over the first five outs he recorded in 2020 – gave up a homer to Marcell Ozuna on a 3-2 pitch with two outs in the ninth inning.
A 2-1 Mets win, became a 5-3 Braves victory in 10 innings.
And even though it’s just Game 2 of the season, it is a 60-game journey, so you can see the panic.
But before you storm Citi Field with torches, pitchforks, face masks, and six feet apart, if you looked at the homer, Ozuna hit a pretty good pitch.
“Today is not a day I’m going to lose my confidence over,” Diaz said after the game through an interpreter. “At the end of the day, I located my pitch exactly where I wanted to put it. It wasn’t like last year when I was leaving a slider over the middle or a fastball over the middle. It’s just a pitch that he happened to hit out opposite field.”
So “tip your cap” – as Diaz said later – and move on to tomorrow. But the bad optics are there.
Manager Luis Rojas isn’t going to make a change right now and he said he hasn’t lost confidence in his closer either. Instead he sees Diaz differently then the pitcher he was last season.
“I keep saying that when he commands to his extension side, that’s when he’s been effective,” Rojas said. “He got hurt there today.”
The timing of the homer obviously hurt and the new extra inning rule made it difficult for an ineffective Hunter Strickland, who gave up three runs.
The fact that this was Game 2 of the season and not further in is what makes it sting. If Diaz had 10 saves on the season and this type of incident happened, the you would shrug your shoulders and hope for the best tomorrow.
Diaz though, doesn’t have that kind of cache with the Mets and there are still questions if he could play in New York. Look, there are plenty of pitchers who couldn’t handle the Big Apple spotlight and were fine when they went elsewhere. Sonny Gray is the best example recently. You wonder about that with Diaz.
The good news is that the Mets have backup plans. If Diaz continues to fail, Rojas could go to either Dellin Betances or Jeurys Familia. Heck, Seth Lugo also did the job as well and Justin Wilson looked pretty good on the left side.
Tomorrow isn’t the time for that change, but it will have to come soon if Diaz continues to fail in the big spot. The Braves are a good team, but so are many clubs the Mets will be playing during the next 58.They can’t afford to give away games like this no matter how good of a pitch Ozuna hits out of the park.
And that’s going to be the delicate situation. When do you make the change?
Until Diaz saves games consistently, that question will follow Rojas around.
I’m thankful, I don’t have to make it.