Arizona Diamondbacks – Ray’s high pitch count forces early exit

Robbie Ray (r) during a mound discussion. ( Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports)
Robbie Ray (r) during a mound discussion. ( Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports) /

Left-hander Robbie Ray of the Arizona Diamondbacks suffered, once again, from a high pitch count

Left-hander Robbie Ray of the Arizona Diamondbacks, continues to puzzle and mystify. The most maddening aspect of this scenario remains Ray’s inconsistency.

Here’s a pitcher with a plethora of physical tools. His fast ball runs in the mid-90s, his confidence is strong and his ability over-power hitters is evident.  Manager Chip Hale insists if Ray ever harnessed his energy and ability, the lefty could enjoy an unlimited destiny.

If there is one element of his game clearly not under control remains Ray’s pitch count. While he consistency tells reporters “I feel fine,” there is apparently nothing wrong with his physical abilities. Yet, his pitch count tends to soar, and that clearly limits his capability and productivity.

On Thursday night against the visiting Atlanta Braves, Ray’s pitch count again was elevated, and he constantly worked behind hitters. While his first-pitch strike early in the game hit the target, he began laboring in toward the middle innings, and that may have cost a victory.

Though Ray allowed only two runs in five innings, the Arizona Diamondbacks could not pick up their starting pitcher, and Ray fell 3-1 to the Braves before 18,698 in Chase Field.

The loss merely exacerbated Ray’s inconstant pattern. Coming off a brilliant one-hitter and victory at San Diego last Saturday, Ray began to run up his pitch count early in this one. By the end of the third inning, he was up to 66 pitches, and ended with 107 after five. That was only two under the 105 (for seven innings) he tossed against the Padres in his last outing.

“I think I walked three but, you’re right, the pitch count was up,” Ray said afterward. “I need to focus on executing pitches better. As good as I felt and to give them two runs, it was like a win.”

For the record, Ray walked four in this game and struck out seven. This marked the 24th time in his last 25 starts Ray fanned five or more hitters.

More from Diamondbacks News

While Ray started relatively strong, he seemed to have hit the wall in the middle innings. In the third, the Braves picked up a pair of runs and on an RBI single from Freddie Freeman and a ground out by Nick Markakis. That forged a two-run advantage. Otherwise, Ray managed to shut down the Braves and echoed Hale’s common refrain of the high pitch count.

“Robbie battled again, but this one looked like games he threw last year,” Hale said. “His pitch count was high, and we would have liked him to get into the seventh. He did a great job of keeping us in the game, and like I said, he battled.”

If Ray did his best to minimize damage, the Arizona Diamondbacks had difficulty mastering Matt Wisler, the Braves starter. Carrying a no-hitter into the seventh, Wisler kept the Diamondbacks at bay with a nasty sinker. Wisler demonstrated a strong ability to keep the ball on the ground and frustrate Arizona hitters.

Leading off the seventh, Paul Goldschmidt singled to center to break up the no-hitter. The first baseman then came around to score on a grounder from Chris Owings.

In tossing zeros, Wisler sought to become the first Braves’ pitcher to toss a no-hitter since left-hander Kent Merker’s gem against the Dodgers on April 8, 1994.

The revolving door

Before Thursday’s game, the Arizona Diamondbacks made four roster moves.

The club sent lefty Steve Hathaway and righty Dominic Leone to Triple-A Reno and recalled righties Silvino Bracho and Vicente Campos from the Aces.

Next: Miller could join rotation shortly

Campos was acquired from the New York Yankees in July for reliever Tyler Clippard. Bracho pitched in 15 games previously this season for the Diamondbacks. This is the third time Bracho has been recalled from the minors this season.