Lights go out for Diamondbacks as bullpen falters in loss to Rangers
PHOENIX — Just like half the lights at Chase Field, Diamondbacks starter Robbie Ray was lights-out during part of his start. He painted corners and struck out a likely future Hall of Famer looking.
The other times? He nearly knocked a helmet off.
Monday’s performance against the Texas Rangers was filled with “although”s for the southpaw trying to find his All-Star form.
In the first inning, although Ray spiked consecutive sliders into the dirt well in front of home plate, five of his eight fastballs reached 96 mph. He only needed 15 pitches in the 1-2-3 inning.
In the second, two sliders in a row nearly hit Joey Gallo in the head, although Ray did get out of a two-on, one-out jam unscathed.
And then in the third inning, although he threw four 93 mph fastballs in a row and followed it with consecutive sliders in the dirt, Ray struck out a pair and got through three innings of one-hit ball.
“It’s probably as good as I’ve felt,” he said. “I felt like the slider was working all game … Maybe early on it wasn’t as good, but the deeper I got into the game, it got better.”
Ray’s season average fastball velocity coming into the game was 93.8, his lowest in any season he’s started at least 10 games. On Monday, it hit 95 or 96 mph 24 times, though only twice after the fourth inning.
His slider velocity was up as well. Ray’s season average sits at 84.6 mph, the lowest since 2015, but Ray hit 86 several times and even touched 87.
While Ray said his slider was solid, manager Torey Lovullo didn’t think it was as good as his last outing.
“I felt like he couldn’t land his slider. It was something it felt like he was searching for from the first slider that he threw on,” Lovullo said. “It’s a very effective pitch for him and unfortunately he couldn’t get to it.”
All in all, Ray pitched OK, giving up four earned runs and striking out six over 5.1 innings. Shin-Soo Choo knocked the lights out of the ball to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead, and Ray walked three runners who ended up scoring in the game.
It’s not playoff material, but it was another step forward against a team that just swept the Astros – although, the Rangers are floundering with a 46-62 record and in sell-now mode at the trade deadline.
Ray was pulled after he walked his fourth batter of the game in the top sixth. With two outs, runners on second and third and a 3-2 count, half the lights in Chase Field went out.
Twenty-one minutes later, play resumed, the Rangers took the lead, and Ray went home with a no-decision.
Offensively, the team continued its strong play since the All-Star break. Newly-acquired infielder Eduardo Escobar endeared himself to Diamondbacks fans with a pair of RBI, and right fielder Steven Souza Jr. hit a three-run home run.
He’s been surging this month in a way Arizona hasn’t yet seen from its offseason acquisition.
In July, Souza has 20 hits, a pair of home runs and 14 RBI. This was just the second game the D-backs have lost in which he has an RBI this month, and the team is 3-7 in games he doesn’t.
“I don’t think that’s a byproduct of just me,” he said before the game. “In order to get RBIs, you gotta have guys on base in front of you. That’s great, but I think just collectively as an offense coming out of the break, we’ve been awesome.”
Even getting those runners on wasn’t enough for the D-backs on Monday, as the bullpen suffered another collapse. Yoshihisa Hirano, De La Rosa, Matt Andriese and Andrew Chafin combined for five runs allowed over 3.2 innings.
After having the best bullpen for much of the year, the group is 1-5 with a has a 5.65 ERA since the All-Star break.
“The bullpen just got nicked up,” Lovullo said. “Piece by piece, they just couldn’t make pitches when they had to, they couldn’t get the big out and execute at the right time, and that’s just the nature of the game.”
In the end, Arizona suffered its worst loss on this side of the All-Star break. And although they’re seeing the way the roster is shaping up for the playoff hunt, they might not be done making moves.
As the trade deadline looms, the lights haven’t gone off in the front office.