Robbie Ray struggles early, D-backs fall to Dodgers in home opener
PHOENIX — So much of Arizona’s home opener on Thursday was so unusual.
Crowd noise was piped in through the speaker system at Chase Field. Not a single fan sat in the empty seats around the ballpark. Advertisements were displayed on the outfield bleachers and the lineup boards.
But the Diamondbacks getting walloped by the Los Angeles Dodgers’ offense felt too familiar.
It was less than two weeks ago that the D-backs traveled to Dodger Stadium for a two-game exhibition series, only to lose those games 9-2 and 12-1, respectively. It was a poor omen ahead of a full-sprint, 60-game season. The sprint is underway, and the D-backs tripped off the starting block.
Arizona fell, 6-3, to L.A. in its own ballpark in the first of a four-game series. The D-backs are now 2-5.
“I think we just had a wobbly start and that was the difference in the game today,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “We gave up three quick runs, a couple mistakes on pitches out over the plate, and good hitters took advantage of it. Robbie [Ray], I thought, had some better moments as he worked through his outing.”
Ray started for Arizona for the second time in 2020, the first coming against San Diego in a game that Ray only pitched 3.2 innings and allowed three runs on 97 pitches. Thursday’s line: 4.2 innings, five earned runs on six walks, five hits and four strikeouts.
The D-backs were in a hole early after a walk to the leadoff hitter Mookie Betts and a single that dribbled through to put Max Muncy on base in the first inning. A sac fly scored a run, and A.J. Pollock homered in his old ballpark to make it 3-0 Dodgers.
His start to 2020 is a far cry from the rave reviews given to his work during summer camp.
“I felt like later in the game, I felt like my timing and everything was starting to come around a little bit better, but the damage had already been done in the first two innings,” Ray said.
“I feel good. Everything feels good. Arm feels good. It feels like it’s coming out good, it’s just misfiring a little bit. I’ve got to get that timing back that I had during summer camp. I’ve seen spurts of it throughout the game, being able to drive the ball into righties, but it’s just not consistent enough. It’s not what it was in summer camp, and I just need to be better.”
A solo blast by Corey Seager in the second inning quickly made it 4-0. Ray was at 50 pitches through two. Ray had 10 first-pitch strikes out of 25 batters faced. In the first inning, his first pitch was a ball to every batter except the leadoff man, Betts.
Ray now has an 8.64 ERA this season through two games.
Thanks to a 14-pitch at-bat by Starling Marte on the Diamondbacks, Ray and opposing starter Ross Stripling both had the same number of pitches through the first inning: 20. But Stripling outlasted his counterpart, going 5.1 innings and allowing three runs on four hits, two walks and two strikeouts. Adam Kolarek, the recently-suspended Joe Kelly (he is appealing), Brusdar Graterol and Pedro Baez pitched in relief of Stripling.
Against those Dodgers pitchers, Arizona hitters collected five hits and three walks. Ketel Marte went 2-for-4 with a homer and is now at a .321 average, but the team as a whole is at .196 on the season. That’s the third-worst mark in the major leagues.
“It’s been a little tough. We don’t have to lie about that,” outfielder David Peralta said. “It’s been tough for everyone. And as a team, we have to make an adjustment. We have to figure out how to do our job, including myself. It’s going to come through. We’re working really hard every day, our coaching staff, our hitting coach staff. They’re doing their best to give us a report and everything, we just have to execute and we have to do a better job. And that’s the bottom line.”
For the D-backs, Stefan Crichton (0.2 IP, 0 ER), Alex Young (1.1 IP, 1 ER), Junior Guerra (1.1 IP, 0 ER) and Yoan Lopez (1.0 IP, 0 ER) pitched after Ray.
“Frustration is probably where I’m at right now, but practicing patience and understanding that this game can change tomorrow,” Lovullo said. “We’ve got to find a way to make something better than what happened today.”
— No. 3-ranked prospect Daulton Varsho made his major league debut, pinch-hitting for the DH Tim Locastro (who had earlier pinch-hit for the DH Jake Lamb) in the ninth inning with nobody on and two outs. He drew a walk and took second base on defensive indifference. He donned jersey No. 12.
— Lovullo pinch-hit for Peralta in the sixth inning, replacing him with Ildemaro Vargas. Consequently, Ketel Marte played center field for the rest of the game. Starling Marte moved from center to left. Lovullo characterized it as unique, “out-of-the-box” game management given the unusual circumstances.
— On Justin Turner’s first-inning sac fly to score Betts, Kole Calhoun made a highlight-worthy catch: