Ray, Bradley put focus on better days ahead

Starter exits with back spasm, reliever 'just got beat,' both look forward

August 15th, 2019

DENVER -- If the D-backs are going to reach the peak on their uphill climb to the postseason this year, they’ll need both and .

In a 7-6 walk-off loss to the Rockies at Coors Field to close out a six-game road trip on Wednesday afternoon, the former was lost to lower back spasms -- and the club placed Ray on the 10-day injured list on Thursday -- and the latter could be vulnerable to losing the confidence he built up over a 14-appearance scoreless streak that came to an abrupt halt with Nolan Arenado’s game-winning home run.

If you heard what Bradley had to say after giving up the walk-off inside the left-field foul pole, you wouldn’t come away with the feeling he’d be walking out of Coors Field with any less confidence than he had when he walked in on Wednesday morning.

“I looked at the pitch,” Bradley said. “It was up and in, a good pitch, and he beat me. ... That’s kind of what happens in this role now. ... I pitched bad enough this year at certain times, and I’ve been on a roll lately. I can acknowledge that. I just got beat today. It’s nothing more than that.”

Interestingly, Bradley referred to “this role” when speaking of entering the game in the ninth. D-backs manager Torey Lovullo has said he isn’t ready to attach the label of closer to Bradley yet, wanting him to regain confidence and comfort without the pressure that tag brings.

With Bradley citing the closer role and what comes with it -- good and bad -- it sounds like at some point over his career-high 17 1/3-inning scoreless run, he did regain confidence and some level of comfort in closing situations.

“Archie’s been accountable. I have minimal concern that this is going to make him take any steps backwards,” Lovullo said.

Before Arenado launched his homer to end Wednesday’s game, Bradley hadn’t given up a run since June 22. Over that stretch, he allowed nine hits, walked seven and struck out 21.

Bradley’s resurgence has coincided with a broader improvement by Arizona’s bullpen. Before giving up six runs Wednesday, albeit having to pitch six-plus innings with Ray’s early exit, the D-backs’ relief corps had a 2.53 ERA in August, third-best in the Majors behind the Rays and Astros.

As for the starting rotation, however, things have been inconsistent. The D-backs have seen good things from Alex Young and , inspiring some confidence that the rotation can weather Ray’s potential absence for a short period, if necessary.

But Ray will need to be back soon for Arizona to continue competing for a National League Wild Card spot. The D-backs’ position in the standings is precisely why the left-hander didn’t want to chance it when he felt some tightness in his lower back for the second time in three starts, this time coming as he was warming up for the third inning.

“I don’t want it to turn into something that is a bigger issue than what it was,” Ray said. “I don’t think it’s that big of an issue, but I just want to be smart about it. I’m just going to get some treatment on it and take it day by day.”

These D-backs look a lot different from the D-backs who were taking the field at this time last year. No Paul Goldschmidt. No Zack Greinke. No A.J. Pollock. Arizona will need others to help carry it into October as the front office looks to the present and the future simultaneously.

Losses like Wednesday’s sting. But time waits for no team that just suffered a heartbreaking defeat.

“This is a tough game for us to absorb and process the right way,” Lovullo said. “But I want these guys to feel what they feel and understand that they’re going to learn from it.”

Ray learned after suffering oblique injuries in 2017 and ’18 that sometimes it’s best to take the precautionary route. He hopes that when he looks back in October, Wednesday’s decision will have paid off.

“It’s just something I need to take care of,” Ray said, “so I can help this team do what we’re trying to do.”