Edwin Diaz had the New York Mets one pitch away from a familiar start Saturday afternoon. But a familiar result to that pitch put Diaz into a position he and the Mets have endured before.
The Mets will look to bounce back from Saturday’s discouraging loss on Sunday night, when they host the Atlanta Braves in the finale of a season-opening three-game series between the National League East rivals.
Right-hander Rick Porcello (14-12, 5.52 ERA in 2019) is scheduled to make his first start as a member of the Mets when he opposes Braves left-hander Sean Newcomb (6-3, 3.16).
The Braves evened the series Saturday when Marcell Ozuna hit the game-tying homer off Diaz in the ninth inning before Atlanta scored three times in the 10th and held on for a 5-3 win in the first National League game played under the new extra-innings rules. Adam Duvall opened the 10th inning on second base and scored on a leadoff single by Dansby Swanson.
Ozuna’s homer and the Braves’ subsequent 10th-inning outburst cost the Mets a chance at their third straight 2-0 start. It also conjured up the job security questions Diaz faced throughout much of a difficult first season in New York in 2019, when he blew seven of his 33 save chances, gave up 15 homers in 58 innings and posted a 5.59 ERA.
The Mets have no shortage of closer candidates behind Diaz. Jeurys Familia, whose 51 saves in 2016 are a franchise record, and Dellin Betances are each former All-Stars. Hunter Strickland, who took the loss Saturday, was the San Francisco Giants’ closer in 2018, and Seth Lugo, who earned the win Friday with two scoreless innings, has a 2.47 ERA as a reliever since 2018.
Following the game Saturday, first-year manager Luis Rojas said Diaz was still his closer. But a shortened season is going to increase the urgency for everyone, and Rojas made sure to point out he has plenty of options in the bullpen.
“We have (a lot of) confidence in (Diaz) doing it,” Rojas said. “We have other guys, too, who can come in and close the game. We trust our bullpen.”
Ozuna, who signed with the Braves in January, didn’t need to hit the game-tying homer to earn the trust of manager Brian Snitker, who grew used to watching Ozuna fare well against Atlanta while the outfielder played with the Miami Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals.
Ozuna’s 58 RBIs against the Braves are his most against any foe while his 15 homers are tied for his second-most. His first round-tripper for Atlanta spared his new team its second consecutive 0-2 start.
“He’s one of those guys that no situation is going to faze him,” Snitker said. “That guy can hit. We’ve seen it for a long time. That was huge for us.”
Porcello, who signed with the Mets in December, will be making his first start for a National League team after spending 11 years in the American League with the Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox. He is 3-1 with a 3.00 ERA in four career starts against the Braves.
Newcomb is 3-3 with a 3.29 ERA in 13 games (seven starts) against New York.
–Field Level Media