Robbie Ray retired the first eight San Diego Padres batters of the game on Saturday night. He struck out six batters through three innings and touched 97 mph.
Then he threw 39 pitches in the fourth inning.
Ray was pulled after 3.2 innings, striking out seven batters but giving up a three-run home run in the fourth and leaving with runners on the corners. He finished his outing with 97 pitches, 53 of which were needed to get outs nine, 10 and 11 while working for his twelfth out that never came.
The Diamondbacks lost 5-1 to the Padres, failing to get the offense going once again and falling to 0-2 on the season.
Since coming back from the offseason, Ray has said he felt better than ever after cutting dairy out of his diet and losing 15 pounds. In a contract year, Ray felt the pressure to play this season, seeing the potential of a hefty payday for a hard-throwing southpaw.
In the first three innings, it looked like those improvements were legitimate. Over his first four years with the Diamondbacks, his fastball velocity averaged between 94 and 95 mph, according to Fangraphs. Last year, it was below 93.
He threw 96 mph multiple times on Saturday, and the broadcast showed him hitting 97 mph , something that has turned into a rarity for Ray.
Ray said he’s been tinkering with his delivery. His timing with it still isn’t down.
“With the new delivery I’m still working out, trying to figure out how to slow things down, to figure out my mental cues to go through to kind of get myself back to where I’m in the position that I need to be in to deliver a good pitch,” Ray said.
“It feels really comfortable, I’m just getting quick and I’ve gotta take a step back and I’ve gotta slow things down.”
After allowing his first hit of the game with two outs in the third, Ray walked Fernando Tatis Jr. on four pitches. He struck out the next batter, Manny Machado, to get out of the inning.
Even with that strikeout, he had lost the ability to find his spot. Starting with Machado, five of the final eight batters Ray faced reached a full count.
Ray walked Tommy Pham to start the fourth inning. After Ty France got a base hit to put runners on the corners with one out, Wil Myers hit a three-run home run. Ray gave up a double and walked another batter with a strikeout sandwiched in between.
After that final walk, a seven-pitch at-bat, he was taken out of the game for Stefan Crichton. The D-backs trailed 3-1.
Manager Torey Lovullo thought Ray’s struggles stemmed from pitching out of the stretch.
“In spurts I thought he was good, I just think the repeatability issue out of the stretch was something that wasn’t consistent,” Lovullo said.
Arizona’s offense wasn’t able to score another run either. It had a chance in the sixth inning.
Starling Marte doubled to lead off the inning, and Eduardo Escobar drove a ball to left field that was inches away from tying the game at 3. Instead, it hit just outside the foul pole and he grounded it.
With two outs in that inning, Marte was thrown out trying to steal third.
“I don’t think it’s the healthiest time to go,” Lovullo said. “I know what his intentions were … But we’ve gotta be safe in that situation. It’s gotta be 100%.”
That was the closest Arizona would get. The only D-back to get on base after the sixth inning was Ketel Marte, who reached on error.
Now 0-2 on the season, the D-backs will rely on Zac Gallen to help them avoid getting swept to open a 60-game season.