Righty Zack Grienke and lefty Robbie Ray form one of the most potent one-two starters in the majors.
At this point of the season, it’s safe to say that lefty Robbie Ray of the Arizona Diamondbacks is locked in a zone.
Coming into his start Tuesday night at home against the San Diego Padres, Ray entered the game with 24.0 scoreless innings. Going 6.2 innings and gaining a 10-2 victory over the Padres before 25,883 in Chase Field, Ray extended that scoreless mark to 27.3 innings. The streak ended when Hunter Renfroe slammed a two-out homer in the fourth inning.
The 27.3 scoreless innings is the third longest in franchise history. Only Brandon Webb with 42.0 innings (July 20 – Aug 1, 2007) and Webb’s 30.0 innings (May 20 – June 5, 2006) are longer.
More importantly, the lefty from Brentwood, Tenn. moved clearly up in the rotation, and, with Zack Grienke, perhaps give the Diamondbacks the best one-two punch among starters right now in baseball.
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So dominant of late, Ray extended his personal winning streak to four and recorded a 0.30 ERA in his last four starts. His 11 strikeouts, a season-high, pushed his yearly number to 95, and that’s only five behind Max Scherzer of Washington, the NL leader. At the same time, Ray’s season ERA dropped to 2.95, and only Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers, Mike Leake of the St. Louis Cardinals and Scherzer have posted lower ERAs to this point in the NL.
All of which puts Ray now among the National League elite. He drew that praise from manager Torey Lovullo, who told Venom Strikes after Ray’s powerful performance Tuesday night that there is one trait clearly dominant.
"Robbie is fearless. Fearless in his pre-game preparation and fearless in his execution. It starts with his fast ball command, but (against the Padres), that was the best I saw Robbie use his secondary pitches this season. He did not throw, he pitched."
If Ray slammed the door on the Padres Tuesday night, his effort on the road is equally impressive. With a 4-1 mark away from Chase Field and a sparkling 0.64 ERA, Ray has the best road record of any pitcher in the majors. As well, that 0.64 ERA is the lowest ERA for any Arizona pitcher through their first six starts of any season.
Against the San Diego, Ray limited the Padres to three hits and one run. At this point, there is a certain confidence level clearly evident, and an essential make-up of his character. After his win Tuesday night, Ray told Venom Strikes he made one mechanical adjustment and the result has been telling.
"My delivery is a little quicker and I can see the change. Before, I was slower and more deliberate. (Tuesday night), I knew (San Diego) is a good fast ball hitting team. My game plan was get them to bite on off-speed pitches, and the curve was a good pitch for me."
For the fourth consecutive game, Lovullo matched Ray with Chris Herrmann as his catcher. On the same page, the pair has developed a rapport and trust and now clearly dangerous to opponents. Ray told Venom Strikes that he has developed a comfort zone with Herrmann and established an easy, working relationship.
"Whatever (Herrmann) puts down, I’ll throw. We talk all the time and it’s been great. All of our catchers are tremendous, but things are really clicking with Chris."
Herrmann left Tuesday’s game in the sixth inning with a soreness in his right hand. Manager Torey Lovullo told Venom Strikes that this was the manager’s decision to take out Herrmann. Herrmann should recover in time to catch Ray on his next start. That’s slated for this Sunday at home against the Milwaukee Brewers.
With a comfortable lead, Lovullo made the decision to pull first baseman Paul Goldschmidt after five innings. At that point, the Diamondbacks had a 10-1 lead, and Lovullo told Venom Strikes he did not want to risk any injury. As well, Lovullo is always looking for spots to give starters periods of rest.
The Padres series continues Wednesday night in Chase Field. That’s when righty Zack Greinke (7-3, 3.06 ERA) faces righty Luis Perdomo (0-2, 5.01.
In the series finale Thursday afternoon, look for lefty Patrick Corbin (4-6, 5.43) to take on lefty Clayton Richard (4-6,4.38).
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Then, the NL Central Division-Milwaukee Brewers move in for the weekend. The set includes night games Friday and Saturday, and a matinee contest to conclude the home stand Sunday afternoon.