Arizona Diamondbacks – Ray dominates Padres, gains seventh win

Robbie Ray (Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports)
Robbie Ray (Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports) /

Robbie Ray, a left-hander for the Arizona Diamondbacks, turned in his best performance of the season

SAN DIEGO – Chip Hale, manager of the Arizona Diamondbacks, repeatedly raves about the future of left-hander Robbie Ray.

Armed with an electric fast ball, Ray’s difficulty tends to be his command, and usually suffers from a high pitch count. If Ray could ever harness his natural abilities, Hale points out, he could control a powerful presence on the mound.

With a performance which acknowledged Hale’s observation, Ray showed a glimpse of his ability and the future Saturday in Petco Park. Limiting the San Diego Padres to one hit in the seven innings he pitched, Ray exhibited the kind of effort which certainly received attention. With a career-best 13 strike-out performance, Ray, with help from four relievers, defeated the Padres, 2-1 before 32,599.

Ray’s ability to command the strike zone was consistent. In the first inning alone, Ray needed 11 pitches to retire the side, and threw nine strikes. For the game, he threw 105 pitches and hit the strike zone 75 times. Of the 24 hitters he faced, Ray threw a first-pitch strike to 18 hitters.

The 13 strike-outs was the best for an Arizona pitcher since Randy Johnson fanned 13 Marlin hitters on Aug. 22, 2008. Ray’s previous career best was turned in this July 28 when the lefty fanned 12 Milwaukee Brewers’ hitters.

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In this game, Ray became the third Arizona pitcher to allow one hit and record 13 strike-outs in at least seven innings, and the first since Randy Johnson’s perfect game on May 18, 2004.

“It’s all about confidence,” Ray said. “With that, I’m just trying to get better every day. My fastball command was good, especially in the early innings. That was moving on both sides of the plate.”

The only blemish to an otherwise over-powering night was a one-out, fifth inning home run from Patrick Kivlehan, a former defensive back at Rutgers, in his major league debut. The homer was never in doubt, and traveled an estimated 451 feet into the second deck above the left field scoreboard in Petco.

If Ray was in command, reliever Daniel Hudson brought himself off the mat. Having imploded during recent games, Hudson came on the eighth, and delivered a strong confidence booster.

After Ray left the game, the Padres managed to load the bases in the eighth against relievers Jake Barrett and Steve Hathaway with none out. Hudson came in and retired the next three hitters on pop-ups to the infield. That preserved the slim, one-run lead and in the ninth, and Enrique Burgos shut the door to record his first save of the season.

“It’s about managing your emotions,” Hudson said. “You know guys are out there and you focus on making your pitches. In that situation, you don’t expect to get out without a run scoring. Robbie pitched so well that I just wanted to pick him up.”

Thanks to the generosity of San Diego starter Clayton Richard, the Arizona Diamondbacks were able to put this one in the win column for Ray. Two throwing errors by Richard lead to both Arizona runs.

In the fifth, Welington Castillo singled and advanced to third when Mitch Haninger’s grounder to the mound was thrown into center field by Richard. Castillo then scored when Brandon Drury hit into a double play.

Nearly ditto in the sixth. With runners on first and second and one out, Rickie Weeks, Jr. hit a one bouncer to the mound. In what was apparent as a double play grounder, Richard again threw the ball into center field, and Phil Gosselin crossed the plate.

Ray continued to handle all comers. For his seven innings, the native of Brentwood, Tenn. allowed only three base runners. That included a walk to Richard with one out in the third, Kivlehan’s homer in the fifth, and Ryan Scimpf reached base with two-out in the fourth. That’s when Weeks dropped his fly ball to shallow left field.

Otherwise, Ray completely shut down San Diego, and likely pitched the best game of his young major league career.

On deck

The weekend set with the Padres concludes with a Sunday matinee encounter in Petco Park. Right-hander Braden Shipley (2-2, 4.30 ERA) takes on righty the Padres’ Luis Perdomo (5-7, 6.68).

Next: Hale, Green going through tough season

The Arizona Diamondbacks then return to Chase Field for a seven-game home stand. Beginning Monday night, the Atlanta Braves are in for four, and that’s followed by a three-game weekend set with the Cincinnati Reds.