Dominant Ray morphing into No. 1 starter

D-backs lefty twirls first shutout, hasn't allowed a run in 24 2/3

May 31st, 2017

PITTSBURGH -- Robbie Ray walked out of the trainer's room and over to his locker in the visiting clubhouse of PNC Park on Tuesday night long after the D-backs had beaten the Pirates, 3-0, and apologized to the media contingent that had been waiting for him.

"Sorry, I had to get the ketchup out of my ear," Ray said.

As has become a D-backs rite of passage, anytime a player reaches a milestone of note he gets put in a laundry cart and wheeled into the shower room where he is doused with, well, just about anything.

"We had some postgame festivities," said Ray, who was being celebrated for his first career shutout and complete game. "It kind of turned into, 'Find the closest thing and dump it on the person in the basket.' It's fun, though, it's great."

Everything is fun for Ray right now. He's won his past three starts, he's gone 24 2/3 innings without allowing a run and he has been a road warrior, lowing his ERA away from Chase Field to 0.64.

The Pirates struggled to do much against him, collecting just four hits -- one of which came on a ball that was lost in the sun. Ray did not walk a batter and struck out 10.

It's as if he has morphed from a young pitcher who needed to learn how to be more economical with his pitches to a top-of-the-rotation starter.

"That was a completely different cat than the guy we saw pitch in Arizona, absolutely," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle, whose team knocked Ray out of the game in four innings May 14. "They've talked about making an adjustment with him. We got to see it. He's letting that fastball eat at the top of the zone. He was able to get enough balls down to change eye level. He worked glove side on some people. He worked it arm side away from some right-handers. He had the curveball working like a yo-yo for him. He was in command from start to finish."

The key for Ray over his past three starts has been a much better tempo on the mound.

Instead of taking a lot of time in between pitches, he is getting his sign from the catcher and working quickly.

"I'm just understanding myself," Ray said. "If I have a consistent timing to home plate, a consistent delivery, I know everything is going to come out of the same slot. And that's what you want when you're pitching, is every pitch to look the same."

Ray's four-seam fastball was simply overpowering. He got 16 swings and misses on the pitch, the most any pitcher has gotten this season.

"They didn't really have a chance," catcher Chris Herrmann said of the Pirates. "I know they hit a couple of balls hard, but for the most part, I felt like any batter coming up today was going to be an automatic out with the stuff he came with today."