Arizona Diamondbacks: Ray continues to put up big numbers

Robbie Ray recorded his first complete game and shutout against the Pirates Tuesday night. (Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports)
Robbie Ray recorded his first complete game and shutout against the Pirates Tuesday night. (Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports) /

Lefty Robbie Ray of the Arizona Diamondbacks could emerge as the team’s stopper.

At first glance, right-hander Zack Grienke of the Arizona Diamondbacks would be regarded as the team’s stopper. That’s usually reserved for a veteran starter who is ready to give a strong effort when his team needs a lift. That’s especially true in a losing streak.

Just past the quarter-pole of this season, the effort and numbers put up by lefty Robbie Ray may force Greinke to step aside. Harnessing energy and power, Ray is quietly putting together a quality season. “Quietly” may be the optimum word, because the Diamondbacks draw little national attention.

In fact, Paul Goldschmidt, having another strong season, is fourth among National League first baseman in early balloting for the All-Star game. Simply, the Diamondbacks’ recent poor seasons and lack of a viable media market in the Phoenix region combine to suppress attention the team and principals deserve.

With his first career shutout Tuesday night over the Pittsburgh Pirates, 3-0 at PNC Park, Ray extended his personal scoreless streak to 24.2 innings, and that’s the third longest scoreless streak in franchise history. As well, the effort was Ray’s first complete game in the major leagues.

In this case, “stopper” may be applicable, because Ray stepped forward to end a three-game losing streak.  In Ray’s next start, likely Sunday in Miami, he can move only behind Brandon Webb’s club record of 42.0 scoreless innings. That was set between July 20 and August 17, 2007. Webb holds the second longest scoreless streak at was 25.0 innings set between May 20-31, 2006.

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Plus, the white-wash over the Pirates was the first shutout by an Arizona lefty since Joe Saunders shut out the Marlins on April 27, 2010.

What continuous to be impressive is Ray’s control. As early as last season, here’s a pitcher with a penchant for high pitch counts and getting deep into counts. Walks were culprits and hitters seem to extend pitch counts with numerous foul balls. Now in his recent starts, Ray’s control seems impeccable.

In his shutout over the Pirates, Ray walked no hitters and finished the game with a 115-pitch count. In previous outings. Ray seem to approach the 100-pitch benchmark somewhere in the fifth or sixth inning. Now, an economy of pitches has clearly aided his overall production.

In his three previous starts, Ray allowed no earned runs. In starts previous to his shut-out Tuesday night, he went seven scoreless innings May 25 in Milwaukee and 7.2 scoreless innings on May 20 in San Diego. The last runs allowed was to the Pirates in Chase Field on May 14. Here, Ray, allowed four runs in just four innings of work.

A benefit has been a respectable ERA. After allowing those four runs to the Pirates, Ray’s ERA was 4.57. With the shutout Tuesday, his ERA now stand a very productive 3.45.

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As a result of the shutout in Pittsburgh, Ray lowered his road ERA to 0.64 (3 ER in 42.1 inning). That his lowest mark in team history through the first six road games.

Ray is also the first pitcher in Arizona franchise history to have three straight outings of seven or more innings. Ray is one of 13 left-handed pitchers since 1913 to have three consecutive outings of seven or more shut innings and allow four or fewer hits.

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In his shutout over the Pirates, Ray fanned 10 batters and that represented the sixth time in his career for that feat. It was also third time that was accomplished this season. To added numbers, the effort over Pittsburgh Tuesday night was Rays’ first career double-digit strike-out contest with no walks allowed.