After two lights-out starts to begin the season, Bakersfield's Edwin Diaz ran into a speed bump last time out against San Jose. Presented with a second chance to go after the Giants on Friday night, he took full advantage.
The Mariners' seventh-ranked prospect allowed a hit to the first batter he faced and didn't give up another the rest of the way, going 5 1/3 innings as Class A Advanced Bakersfield silenced San Jose, 5-0.
"He was much more aggressive tonight in the strike zone," Blaze pitching coach Andrew Lorraine said. "[Last time against] San Jose, he had trouble getting over the plate at times and they got deep in counts. He did a nice job tonight making things happen. The first three innings of the game, he was about at 32 pitches. He definitely made things happen quickly."
Ryan Lollis singled to lead off the game and advanced to second base, but Diaz responded by setting down the next nine Giants. Although he ran into trouble in the fourth, plunking leadoff man Hunter Cole and walking No. 26 Giants prospect Ryder Jones and Rafael Rodriguez to load the bases with one out, the 21-year-old right-hander got out of the jam with a double-play ball and a flyout.
"It's a great teaching moment," Lorraine said. "Obviously, he's a really talented kid and he has the world right in front of him. He knows what he can do. Honestly, they didn't really hit him really hard last time, he just kind of created his own situations. It's just a reminder that if he does his thing, they aren't going to hit him."
Diaz finished strongly in the fifth. After Ty Ross reached on shortstop Brock Hebert's throwing error, Diaz got John Polonius to line into a double play before coaxing Jesus Galindo's groundout. When the 2012 third-round pick committed a one-out throwing error to allow Cole to reach in the sixth and walked Jones, his night came to a close.
Of the 13 outs Diaz recorded on balls in play, 11 were on the ground. He issued three walks while striking out two.
"His ball's got really good life," Lorraine said. "He has a lot of balls that run back to the arm side. Sometimes he throws the ball away and it runs back and jams guys.
"The key is that his misses sometimes are in good spots and with a lot of movement. He's got a good fastball. It definitely makes it easier for him to get away with mistakes, but he also used his changeup really well tonight. He threw it over the plate and kept guys honest. When he did get the ball over the plate, when it was an off-speed pitch or a sinker, guys were just a little bit off."
Brett Ash followed Diaz with 2 2/3 hitless innings, striking out two. Will Mathis closed out the Blaze's fourth shutout of the season with a perfect ninth, fanning Brandon Bednar for the final out. Bakersfield lowered its team ERA to 3.04, which ranks second in the California League.
"We knew we were going to have a pretty good pitching staff when we left Arizona, but the kids have taken the ball and gone out there and done it so far," Lorraine said. "It's early in the year, but the key is it's taking a lot of pressure off of our offense, which has at times struggled. They're getting going now, but I think the pitching staff wants to lead the way."
Perhaps even more impressive than their season-long success on the mound has been the Blaze's stingy pitching at home. In one of the Cal League's renowned hitters' parks, Bakersfield has a 2.78 ERA.
"I was in High Desert last year with different kids and I think you just get used to the ballpark," Lorraine said. "Everything flew last year, and you didn't get a lot of rewards for getting anything. Ground balls took big hops and fly balls carried out of the ballpark. Anything is an improvement. I know this park can play small, but for us, we've just gone after guys and not worried about it."
Mariners No. 12 prospect Tyler O'Neill blasted a two-run homer in the third to put Bakersfield in front and the Blaze added three in the eighth, two on Hebert's double.
Giants starter D.J. Snelten (0-2) took the loss after allowing two runs on seven hits and a walk with two strikeouts in five innings.
Tyler Maun is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @TylerMaun.