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MLB.com writer: D-backs Wild Card hopes hinge on Robbie Ray’s recovery

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Robbie Ray works against the Colorado Rockies in the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Get well soon, Robbie Ray. Your health is imperative for the Arizona Diamondbacks if they hope to continue fighting in the loaded National League Wild Card race, Richard Justice of MLB.com writes.

Justice published a list of one player on 15 teams who can decide a playoff berth. For the D-backs, it was Ray.

It’s easy to recognize why he was distinguished with this spot. The No. 1 pitcher in a rotation full of unproven commodities, a quick return from the back spasms Ray suffered during his Aug. 14 start against the Colorado Rockies would be important for the rotation.

But Arizona has been overachieving all year, Justice wrote.

The D-backs would like to put the proper finishing touch on a season in which they’ve been one of MLB’s most pleasant surprises. To do that, they need Ray back from the injured list by the end of the month, and pitching like the ace he can be.

It’s been quite some time since Ray was a proper ace. In 2017, he went 15-5 with a 2.89 ERA and 218 strikeouts, but regressed in 2018. His ERA was above 4.00 until the final three starts of the season.

He carried the momentum from the final month into 2019 and has been solid overall. Ray has allowed three or fewer runs in 19 of his 25 outings (excluding his two innings on Aug. 14) and is No. 5 in the MLB in strikeouts per nine innings.

However, Ray hasn’t been able to go deep into games like that 2017 All-Star season. Only once this year has he pitched seven full innings.

So Ray has to A) get healthy and B) continue progressing toward his 2017 form. With only a handful of opportunities left to start, he needs to do both as quickly as possible.

If he can’t, in Justice’s eyes, it would be near impossible for the D-backs to crack the Wild Card game with so many other teams chasing it, including the St. Louis Cardinals and their player who made Justice’s list, Paul Goldschmidt.

Arizona enters Thursday with a 64-64 record. The Washington Nationals hold the first Wild Card spot with a 69-57 record and the Cardinals have the second with a 67-58 record.

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