Robbie Ray produces top-notch start, D-backs win second straight
PHOENIX — A crucial piece to the Arizona Diamondbacks’ starting rotation found his footing once again Saturday night.
An aggressive Robbie Ray went to work against the Colorado Rockies, picking up his sixth win of the season as the D-backs took a tight 4-2 victory over the visitors.
Ray, who entered the matchup fourth in the NL in strikeouts (129), added eight more to his season total as the D-backs won their second consecutive game against the Rockies. Prior to the series, Colorado had won the last eight games over Arizona.
Ray moves to 6-6 on the season, earning his first win since June 9 by going 6.0 innings (93 pitches/58 strikes) with just two hits allowed and one earned run. He added the eight strikeouts, while walking five (one intentional).
“We were paced by Robbie, who gave us six solid innings, and there was still some gas in his tank and he was trying to negotiate to go back out there,” manager Torey Lovullo said after the game. “He assured me he that he could go further and I liked that. I liked where he was at and he’s making pitches all day long.
“I know there was five walks but Robbie does a really good job of damage control and picking up his teammates.”
Saturday’s performance was reminiscent of the pitcher’s previous two seasons, a good sign for both Ray, who had lost his last three of four starts, and the D-backs as the starting rotation has dealt with injuries and inconsistent play.
“It’s huge,” Ray said of the win. “We had a rough series in L.A. but come back here and win the first two and come back out tomorrow and do it all over again.”
After registering a 15-win season in 2017, earning an All-Star nod in the process and compiling a 6-2 record the next year, Ray hasn’t found the same success in 2019.
While his first decision of the season was recorded as a loss, Ray bounced back in a big way, rattling off four wins with just the lone loss by May 24. But from there, Ray regressed, losing five of his next six decisions.
In his losses, however, he didn’t have the same backing as he did in his wins offensively.
In his victories, Ray had enormous run support, with at least eight runs scored in those outings, highlighted by the team’s 18-2 win over the San Francisco Giants in May.
But looking at the loss column, Ray’s defeats all came with the D-backs failing to score more than four runs.
That trend changed course Saturday night as the pitcher received just enough run support (four) combined with his stellar performance.
Much of that support came from the bats of Jake Lamb and Ray.
Ray broke the seal for the D-backs offensively, recording an RBI single to pull the game to a 1-1 tie early on.
Lamb, who played his eighth game since returning from injury, stepped up in a big way for the D-backs, breaking a 1-1 tie in the sixth inning with a two-run blast to left field.
“Just nice to see him get off the way he is and striking the ball extremely well,” Lovullo said of Lamb. “It’s a matter of time before that sweet swing starts lining things up and he starts impacting games like the way he did today. Really proud of what he gave us.”
The HR marked Lamb’s first of the season and first since June 2018. He went 2-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored.
“For sure it feels good to get the first homer, but just trying to put quality at-bats together for a good stretch,” Lamb said. “I know what kind of player I can be and I think guys on the team know what kind of player I can be.”
D-backs Catcher Carson Kelly provided some more insurance with an RBI single two batters later to make it 4-1.
And even when he had his back up against the wall, Ray dug in and limited the damage.
A second-inning home run by Rockies first baseman Daniel Murphy quickly put the score to 1-0 in favor of Colorado. The homer was followed up with a six-pitch walk as Ray tried to regain his composure. He found it soon after, striking out the next two batters to get out of the inning.
He ran into more trouble in the fifth, however, after a walk and a Charlie Blackmon double set up the Rockies with two runners in scoring position with just one out, Ray found his bearings yet again, striking out the next batter before getting Dahl to ground out to end the inning.
Ray now sits two games behind Merrill Kelly (7-8) for third on the team in wins, while the D-backs move to 45-45 on the year.
“I feel really good, I feel like this team, we’ve been playing some really good baseball,” Ray said. We’ve taken some tough losses but we come out grinding everyday. I’m feeling really good about how we’re playing going into the [All-Star] break.”
Alex Young (1-0) gets the nod for Arizona as the D-backs take on German Marquez (8-3) and the Rockies in the series finale.
Catch all the action live on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.