ST. LOUIS -- Robbie Ray boosted his team’s standing in the National League Wild Card race while at the same time also raising his trade value should the D-backs look to move the left-hander before the July 31 Trade Deadline.
Ray (7-6) gave up just two hits and walked a pair while allowing one run and striking out eight over 6 1/3 innings as the D-backs beat the Cardinals, 4-2, on Friday night at Busch Stadium. Arizona scored all four of its runs via homers from Ketel Marte (two-run), Christian Walker and Jake Lamb.
The win pulled the D-backs to just a half-game behind the Phillies for the second Wild Card spot, and they trail the Wild Card-leading Nationals by two games.
Heading into the season, the D-backs' goal was to walk the fine line between being all-in and rebuilding after losing Patrick Corbin and A.J. Pollock to free agency and dealing Paul Goldschmidt to the Cardinals.
All year Arizona has hovered around the .500 mark leaving the front office with a tough choice between being buyers or sellers at the Deadline.
One of the players who could draw significant trade interest is Ray, who is not eligible for free agency until after the 2020 season.
“You understand that baseball is a business, and I think if you just go about your daily job of being prepared every five days and just kind of tune out the noise everything just kind of falls in to place,” Ray said of how he’s handled the rumors.
Why Ray is so attractive to would-be suitors was on display over his past two starts in which he has allowed a combined four hits and two runs in 12 1/3 innings.
“I think just getting ahead of guys, pounding the zone, and when I get ahead of guys putting them away, not letting them stay around too long,” Ray said. “I felt like I managed my pitch count early in this game and got a lot of weak contact. Even with guys on base I was able to get some weak contact ground balls, popups, and we were able to win so it was huge.”
Ray has pitched at least six innings in eight of his last nine starts, in large part because he’s avoided high pitch counts in the early innings.
“He had command of all his pitches today, and he just continued on the attack,” catcher Carson Kelly said. “I think sometimes when they get a hit or two and things start to maybe speed up a little bit [but tonight] he shut that down right away and got back in the zone and executed. I think a lot of it is getting strike one, executing his pitches and he did a tremendous job of that. He was dialed in.”
Ray had success against Goldschmidt, who had a rough night against his former team, going 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts. Ray froze him for a called third strike on a breaking ball in the second and then caught him looking on a fastball in the sixth.
“He’s obviously a really good hitter, so I was trying to be careful with him,” Ray said. “He put some good swings on the ball, but I was able to come out of it ahead so I was pretty happy.”
The confidence that Ray has in his stuff these days is evident in how he approaches hitters -- pitching to his strengths rather than their weaknesses.
“Obviously the [scouting] report helps in getting a general idea of who’s hot or who’s not hot, where to attack guys,” Ray said. “But I don’t want to get beat with something that I don’t do well. So I take the scouting report into account, but at the end of the day I don’t want to get beat with my third-best pitch.”