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Edwin Diaz slams door for Mets in win over Pirates

Edwin Diaz’s infrequent usage in recent weeks has allowed the Mets the kind of luxury they took advantage of Friday night. 

Thrust into the eighth inning to protect a one-run lead, the All-Star closer came trotting from the bullpen and retired both batters he faced. Then he returned for the ninth, for another three outs. 

Diaz’s five-out save, following Taijuan Walker’s solid start, helped the Mets secure their second straight victory, 4-3 over the Pirates at Citi Field. 

Suddenly, the Mets are surging against teams they should beat. The victory improved them to 7-7 in a September stretch against teams with losing records, which included getting swept in three games by the Cubs to start the homestand. The Mets maintained their one-game lead on the Braves in the NL East. 

Diaz, who had thrown just 24 pitches over two appearances since Sept. 1, was summoned after Walker allowed a two-run homer to Oneil Cruz with one out in the eighth inning. Walker had been brilliant to that point, matching his start at Miami last Sunday, when he allowed one run over seven innings. 

Edwin Diaz went 1 2/3 innings to get the save for the Mets Friday night against the Pirates.
Edwin Diaz went 1 2/3 innings to get the save for the Mets Friday night against the Pirates.
Jason Szenes/New York Post

In past years, Diaz has requested regular usage to remain sharp. Now, however, he says he’s fine going extended intervals without an appearance. Lately, the Mets have fluctuated between blowout victories and late-inning deficits that have precluded manager Buck Showalter from using Diaz regularly. 

“I have been getting better with that situation,” Diaz said. “I am more mature right now and understand the game better. This part of the season I don’t have to come to pitch for no reason. I want to save my arm for when they need me.” 

In the eighth, Diaz needed just one pitch to retire Bryan Reynolds on a liner to right before he caught Rodolfo Castro looking at a 100.6 mph fastball to end the inning. 

Taijuan Walker gave up just two runs on five hits in 7 1/3 innings for the Mets on Friday.
Taijuan Walker gave up just two runs on five hits in 7 1/3 innings for the Mets on Friday.
Michelle Farsi/New York Post

In the ninth, Ben Gamel walked on four pitches leading off. But after Greg Allen pinch ran, he was thrown out attempting to steal second by Tomas Nido (the original call of safe was overturned by replay). Ke’Bryan Hayes then struck out and Cal Mitchell was retired on a deep fly ball to right to end it. 

The save was Diaz’s fourth this season in which he recorded at least four outs. His longest was a six-out save against the Braves on Aug. 4. 

“Something we have been very adamant about this year, when you have got really good pitchers you have got to do what it takes to be able to attack situations like that later in the season,” Showalter said. “I think Edwin is prime to do some of that for us physically now.” 

Pirates shortstop Oneil Cruz, left, can't catch Brandon Nimmo’s fly ball to left field in the top of the seventh, allowing a run to score.
Pirates shortstop Oneil Cruz, left, can’t catch Brandon Nimmo’s fly ball to left field in the top of the seventh, allowing a run to score.
Jason Szenes/New York Post

Nido’s RBI single in the third gave the Mets a 1-0 lead. Eduardo Escobar walked and was running on the pitch, allowing him to score from first on Nido’s poke to right field against Mitch Keller. It continued a sizzling September for Nido, who entered with a 1.292 OPS in seven games this month. 

“I knew where [Keller] was going with that pitch and if I tried to do too much I would probably roll it over,” Nido said. “I just saw the second baseman was covering second there and punched it the other way.” 

Daniel Vogelbach smashed a two-out homer in the fourth that extended the Mets’ lead to 2-0. On Thursday, the previously slumping Vogelbach delivered two hits and drove in three runs against the Pirates. 

Daniel Vogelbach rounds the bases after connecting on a solo home run against the Pirates Friday at Citi Field.
Daniel Vogelbach rounds the bases after connecting on a solo home run against the Pirates Friday at Citi Field.
Jason Szenes/New York Post

Brandon Nimmo and Francisco Lindor singled in succession to start the sixth before Pete Alonso’s sacrifice fly placed the Pirates in a 3-1 hole. Both Nimmo and Lindor stole second in the inning. For Nimmo, it was his second stolen base in less than a week after going the entire season without one. 

Nimmo’s RBI single in the seventh gave the Mets a needed insurance run after Escobar’s leadoff double and Nido’s ensuing single. 

Walker retired the first 11 batters he faced before Castro singled in the fourth. 

In the fifth, Hayes reached on Escobar’s throwing error to begin the inning and scored on consecutive singles by Mitchell and Michael Chavis, whose hit was an infield roller. But the Mets avoided significant damage in the inning when Jeff McNeil leaped to snag Cruz’s long drive near the top of the right-field fence for the final out. 

“It was high, I didn’t know,” Walker said, when asked if he thought Cruz’s ball was a homer. “I thought it had a better chance of being in than going out, but Jeff made a really good play and helped me out there.”

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