Arizona Diamondbacks: Robbie Ray encouraged by latest start

Robbie Ray said his outing Wednesday was his best of the season. (Christian Petersen / Getty Images)
Robbie Ray said his outing Wednesday was his best of the season. (Christian Petersen / Getty Images) /
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Lefty Robbie Ray of the Arizona Diamondbacks said his outing Wednesday night was his best of the season.

To date, this has been a baseball season for left-hander Robbie Ray of the Arizona Diamondbacks walking a tightrope. No start has been easy, and each seems a struggle, challenge, and an endeavor. On Wednesday night, Ray hoped he’s turned the corner and returns to his stature of last season.

Dating back to two spring training games, in which Ray toiled dramatically against the Dodgers and Angels, things have not been less than right. After each of those two starts, Ray told Call to the Pen he was aware of the maladies and added, “these are fixable.” So far, adjustments have not been made and the flame-throwing lefty continues to survive extended innings and elevated pitch counts.

In his start Wednesday at home against the San Francisco Giants, Ray lasted six innings and left trailing 2-0. Though the Giants came away with a 4-3 win in 10 innings before 16,976 in Chase Field, Ray told Call to the Pen that the effort was his most encouraging of the season. In limiting the Giants to five hits and two runs, both coming on Evan Longoria’s sixth-inning home run, and striking out nine, Ray told Call to the Pen his mechanics were better than at any time this season.

"“Did much better, this time” he said. “Around the third inning, things started clicking for me, and felt like where I was last year. Mechanics-wise, I felt really good (Wednesday) and a much better outing this time.”"

This one began as a continuation of past struggles. Through the Giants did not score early, Ray experienced difficulty in finding the plate. In the first three innings alone, he needed 56 pitches to retire the Giants without scoring. In two of these frames, Ray delivered 21 pitches in the opening inning and 23 in the third.

Despite dropping his ERA to 4.98 from 5.74 at the start of the game, Ray retired the Giants in order in only two of the six innings and delivered more than 20 pitches in an inning three times. That was in half the innings he worked. Afterward, Ray told Call to the Pen he has zero concern with an elevated pitch count.

“I was still able to go six innings,” he said. “Obviously, the walks hurt and the pitch count was up, but like I said, this is a big step forward and look to build off of this.”

In the final three innings of the game, the Diamondbacks had the tying or winning on third and less than two outs. In each opportunity, they failed to push across the winning run. That was something that did not worry manager Torey Lovullo, who told Call to the Pen that hitting with runners in scoring position is difficult.

"“(Giants starter Chris Stratton) pitched very well,” he said. “Yes, we had chances and I can’t fault the drive and determination. In some cases, we didn’t execute, and a good pitcher beat good hitters.”"

More from Call to the Pen

Into the history books …

When Ray struck out opposing pitcher Chris Stratton in the fourth inning, he became the fastest left-hander to reach the 600-strikeout level. This is in terms of innings pitched (508 2/3 innings). Ray also needed the third-fewest games, 96, by a lefty to reach 600 strikeouts. He trailed only Herb Score (87) and Frank Tanana (95).

The finale …

The Giants’ series concludes Thursday night. That’s when Zack Greinke (1-2, 5.29 ERA) takes on lefty Ty Blach (1-2, 4.43). Then, the San Diego Padres came into the desert for a three-game, weekend set.

In the series opener, Matt Koch, who replaces Taijuan Walker in the rotation, gets the start and draws right-hander Tyson Ross (2-1, 3.50) as his mound opponent. The set continues with a night game on Saturday and a Sunday matinee.

Next: Corbin flirts with history

The Arizona Diamondbacks then head out on a six-game road trip with three in Philadelphia and three in Washington.