Without his sharpest slider, Edwin Diaz just dialed up the radar gun to escape trouble against the Dodgers.
Pitching in the eighth inning against the heart of the Dodgers order, Diaz flirted with danger and twice nearly gave up a game-tying, three-run home run before turning to his fastball to get out of the inning on the way to the Mets’ 5-3 win on Thursday at Citi Field.
Diaz did allow a run after repeatedly going to his slider, but ended the frame with an exclamation point, throwing the fastest pitch of his career — a 102.8 mph fastball — to strike out Gavin Lux and strand a runner at second.
“I think he realized he wasn’t carrying the normal torque on his breaking ball,” manager Buck Showalter said. “He almost got hurt with a couple of them. He just decided to go to option B. Pretty good option B, isn’t it?”
A night after cruising to a save in an electric atmosphere — with Timmy Trumpet playing his entrance song live — Diaz avoided a letdown in Thursday’s eighth inning.
Entering a 5-2 game, Diaz issued a leadoff walk to Freddie Freeman — throwing a slider out of the zone on a 3-2 count — and then hit Will Smith with a 1-2 slider.
After blowing a fastball by Max Muncy, Diaz went back to his slider and Muncy drilled it 364 feet to the warning track in right-center field. But Brandon Nimmo huddled under it for the first out, with Freeman tagging for third.
Justin Turner then got a first-pitch slider and crushed it 404 feet to center field. Fortunately for the Mets, it was hit to one of the deepest parts of the ballpark, allowing Nimmo to track it down again. It went for only a sacrifice fly that got the Dodgers within 5-3.
“I was trying to bring them back in,” shortstop Francisco Lindor joked. “I was like, ‘Please don’t go.’ ”
Pitching coach Jeremy Hefner then visited Diaz with the plan to throw a first-pitch fastball to Lux.
“With the hitter before, I think they were looking for my slider,” Diaz said. “That’s why when Hef came to talk to me, me and [James] McCann agreed to throw fastball first pitch. [Lux] took it, so I was thinking he was looking for a slider. So after that, I was feeling pretty good with my fastball and I kept throwing my fastball.”