Statcast of the Day: Diaz rides slider to key save

Mariners closer surrenders run but whiffs three to close door on A's, boost Wild Card chances

Statcast of the Day: Diaz rides slider to key save

Edwin Diaz is just a 22-year-old rookie, but the right-hander has thrived in some big spots for the Mariners since his debut in June.

On Thursday night, with Seattle in desperate need of a victory to stay two games out of an American League Wild Card spot, Diaz stumbled but ultimately came through again. The flamethrowing Puerto Rico product leaned heavily on his slider as he navigated his way out of a ninth-inning jam, giving up one run but picking up his 18th save in a 3-2 win over the A's at Safeco Field.

The final frame began inauspiciously for Diaz, as Ryon Healy singled to right and went to third on Khris Davis' double to left. As Statcast™ shows, those two batted balls had expected batting averages of .667 and .593, respectively, based on their combination of exit velocity and launch angle.

Two batters later, pinch-hitter Bruce Maxwell hit a 98.3-mph two-seam fastball -- harder than Diaz's season- and game-averages of 97.8 mph -- for an RBI single to left. That put the potential tying run on third and the potential go-ahead run at first.

But those runners would not budge. Diaz got each of his three outs in the inning via the swinging strikeout, whiffing Danny Valencia (prior to Maxwell's at-bat), Yonder Alonso and Max Muncy.

In those three at-bats combined, Diaz went to his slider on 10 of 15 pitches, in contrast to his season-average usage of 31.5 percent. While Diaz had picked up 56 percent of his strikeouts on sliders coming into the day, in this inning, he used the pitch for all three Ks. Over his entire appearance, the slider averaged a spin rate of 2,405 rpm, according to Statcast™, compared with 2,234 rpm for the season

With two outs and men at the corners, Diaz got the left-handed Muncy into an 0-2 count, then threw a 99.5-mph fastball well out of the zone for a ball. He followed that with yet another slider, which darted under Muncy's bat for strike three, keeping Seattle's postseason hopes afloat for another day.

Andrew Simon is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @AndrewSimonMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.