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D-backs’ Robbie Ray ‘ready to go’ in first big-league postseason start

Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Robbie Ray throws against the Colorado Rockies during the fifth inning of the National League wild-card playoff baseball game, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

LOS ANGELES — Major League pitchers are creatures of habit.

Strict regiments, pitch counts and days of rest are vital to survival and success on mound.

So what happens when that carefully planned routine gets disrupted? For Robbie Ray of the Arizona Diamondbacks, it means taking the ball for Game 2 of the National League Division Series against the Dodgers in the biggest start of his career.

Manager Torey Lovullo ended the speculation Friday, prior to Game 1 of the series, when he announced that Ray would get the start against Dodgers lefty Rich Hill.

Ray is ready. In fact, after seeing relief duty in Arizona’s Wild Card win over Colorado Wednesday night in Phoenix, he lobbied for the chance.

“I feel great,” the 26-year-old said Friday. “My arm feels great and ready to go. I wouldn’t lie to (Lovullo). I wouldn’t give this team anything less than 100 percent of myself. I feel like that would be cheating me and cheating the team.

“So I feel 100 percent and I feel ready to go.”

Why would there be a question? Well, because Ray was pressed into action for 2.1 innings out of the bullpen just three nights ago against the Rockies. He’s a big reason why the D-backs are still alive to even make it a question. Ray threw 34 pitches in the game before Jorge De La Rosa and Archie Bradley finished off the seventh inning.

Even though the D-backs’ future rotation was affected by Ray’s outing — he couldn’t start Game 1 because of it — there was little doubt that he’d be Lovullo’s choice for Saturday.

“I want the ball every game, honestly,” Ray said. “I mean, if you didn’t, probably shouldn’t be here. But I was going to get myself as ready as possible for this game.”

One of the themes for the early postseason has been starting pitchers struggling to get deep into games, or more accurately, to get anyone out. Luis Severino of the Yankees, Minnesota’s Ervin Santana, Colorado’s John Gray, Boston’s Chris Sale and Drew Pomeranz and even the D-backs’ own Zack Greinke have made early exits from playoff games. Taijuan Walker also joined the group in Game 1 of the NLDS.

Many of them were making their postseason debuts, but Ray actually believes his relief work in the Wild Card Game will help calm any playoff jitters.

“Obviously, getting into that game, it kind of gave me a taste of what to expect emotionally, and I felt like I handled it pretty well,” he said.

He also handled his last outing at Dodger Stadium well. On Sept. 4, Ray hurled 7.2 innings of three-hit, shutout ball while striking out 14 L.A. hitters in a 13-0 win. He was close to unhittable at Chavez Ravine all season. In three starts, he went 1-0 with a 0.92 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP while opposing hitters posted a paltry .160/.250/.284 slash line against him.

Needless to say, he enjoys the setting.

“Obviously, the atmosphere here is different. The fans are loud,” he said. “It’s pitching against the best team in baseball, so you obviously want to bring your A-game, your best stuff.”

Tune in to 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station, your exclusive home for Arizona Diamondbacks playoff baseball.

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