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Robbie Ray’s curious efficiency, run support issues continue

Arizona Diamondbacks starting pitcher Robbie Ray delivers a pitch to Colorado Rockies' Trevor Story in the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 11, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The Arizona Diamondbacks appear to have found themselves over the course of a nine-game road trip.

During the stretch, they stopped the hemorrhaging from a six-game skid and rebounded with a five-game winning streak.

Sandwiching that success were two starts from one Robbie Ray, who dropped a 4-0 loss to Miami last Thursday before Arizona finished the road trip with an 8-7 loss to the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday.

To call Ray the culprit for the losses, however, would overlook the complexities of his performances.

Ray has struggled with run support and pitch-count woes, and his problems of late don’t yield clear-cut solutions.

On Wednesday, for example, Ray struck out a career-high nine but also allowed a career-high nine hits in 4.2 innings. He was tagged with three earned runs of five total and gave up one home run to Charlie Blackmon — the Rockies have accounted for all five homers off Ray this season.

“I feel like I made one bad pitch all day today,” Ray told FOX Sports Arizona after the game. “The hanging slider to Blackmon, that was the only pitch they got me.”

It was Tyler Clippard taking the loss in Denver after he gave up a Nolan Arenado home run in the eighth inning to spoil the D-backs’ rally from six runs down, but Ray’s performance wasn’t exactly promising because of the familiar issues of inefficiency that bubbled to the surface.

Ray makes 19.2 pitches per inning this season, the sixth-most among MLB pitchers with at least 20 innings under their belts. Seventy-one of Ray’s 112 pitches on Wednesday were strikes, but he only induced two groundouts and one flyout.

Ray ranks 16th in the majors with 10.44 strikeouts per nine frames, which shows his effectiveness in that area. Unfortunately, that’s not necessarily correlated with low pitch-counts.

“It’s frustrating but there’s nothing you can do,” Ray said. “I want to go a complete game every time I go out.”

It looks familiar to Ray’s 2015 season, a disappointing development after he began this year going at least six innings in each of his first three starts. In four starts since, he’s only gone more than five once.

Peculiarly, another repeating trend from 2015 (yes, it’s true sample size is an issue at this point) is seen in Ray’s run support numbers. Last year, D-backs manager Chip Hale surmised that could be related to Ray’s long innings and pace between pitches taking an edge off the Arizona batters.

Ray is again in the bottom tier of the majors with the Diamondbacks scoring 2.57 runs per his nine innings pitched — no other D-backs starter has a run support average below 4.17 so far this season.

Coincidentally or not against Colorado, Arizona’s bats finally woke up after Ray left in the fifth inning.

The D-backs rallied for all seven of their runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth frames before Arenado’s eight-inning bomb turned out to be enough.

But the offensive issues carried over from 9.1 scoreless Arizona innings over Ray’s last two starts. In the Miami victory over Arizona, Ray lasted 5.1 frames but allowed two earned runs. He also struck out five and induced 10 ground balls and seven fly balls.

It was far from a poor outing by any stretch but again, those pitch-count issues bit him.

Without obvious answers regarding either of the curious issues that have plagued Ray, the Diamondbacks remain positive regarding the left-hander’s string of short appearances.

“I thought the ball was coming out of his hand really well. Threw some good breaking balls early in the game,” Hale said. “Again, high pitch-count.

“He was battling. He was battling ’til the end, he wasn’t happy about a couple calls. That shows me he has some fight.”

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