Ray on wrong end of duel with LA's Buehler

June 4th, 2019

PHOENIX -- D-backs left-hander was efficient and mostly dominant while delivering one of his best outings of the season. Dodgers righty Walker Buehler was just better.

Ray and Buehler dueled Monday night at Chase Field, as both starters mowed through the opposition. But Buehler was nearly perfect and Ray had one tough inning, which made the difference in Arizona’s 3-1 series-opening loss.

Ray pitched a season-high seven innings and struck out nine with only one walk. It was only the third time in 13 starts that the left-hander has completed six frames this season.

However, Ray had one key blemish -- a three-run homer to Corey Seager in the fourth. Ray gave up a one-out single to Justin Turner and walked David Freese before Seager swatted a 414-foot home run the opposite way to left field.

“I felt like my command was as good as it’s been all year,” Ray said. “I was pounding the zone, keeping them off balance with my offspeed. Just, honestly, one bad pitch.”

During Ray’s 2017 All-Star campaign, the southpaw had better success pitching deep into games, completing six innings in 17 of his 28 starts. But last year, he reached that mark only seven times in 24 outings.

Of Ray’s 10 starts this season in which he’s pitched fewer than six innings, he has allowed three or fewer earned runs in nine of those outings. But he’s also issued three or more walks six times, contributing to his early departures.

When Ray gets ahead in counts and stays aggressive, it can lead to continued success. Manager Torey Lovullo believes the left-hander is on the right track.

“For me, tonight, it was strike one. It was pounding the zone with his fastball,” Lovullo said. “There was a lot of swing and miss with his secondary stuff as he was throwing it. He was putting pressure on the hitter. So, I think when a pitcher starts to feel that, I think it can snowball and you can start to continue that from outing to outing. So, I know he’s in a good spot.”

Buehler retired the first 14 D-backs batters before Christian Walker hit a two-out homer in the fifth. But it was only a momentary glimmer of hope for Arizona, as the Dodgers’ young right-hander responded by retiring the next nine batters. Ildemaro Vargas’ two-out single in the eighth was the D-backs’ only other hit against Buehler, who fanned 11 in eight innings.

“He had command of all his pitches and was executing, locating,” Arizona catcher Carson Kelly said of Buehler. “We hit some balls hard, right at guys, and that’s baseball. But he had some good stuff tonight.”

Eduardo Escobar recorded the D-backs’ third and final hit, a two-out double against Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen in the ninth that got the potential tying run to the plate. But David Peralta popped out to third to end the game.

Peralta returns from injured list

Peralta was activated prior to the game after missing nearly two weeks with right shoulder inflammation. He went 0-for-4 but had a defensive highlight, making a terrific throw to nab Freese at the plate to end the second.

Peralta was having an All-Star-caliber season before he went on the injured list, and his return should provide a boost for Arizona.

“I know what he means to this team. I know what he means to this lineup, and his energy and his presence were missed and they’re much needed,” Lovullo said. “Glad to have him back."