PHOENIX -- This was one that Robbie Ray had a hard time explaining.
The D-backs' left-hander allowed four runs in the first inning as the Cardinals rolled to a 6-3 win on Monday night at Chase Field, and Ray wasn't sure how that exactly happened.
"It's a head-scratcher," he said.
Throwing strikes was not an issue for Ray in the first inning, but putting hitters away was a challenge for some reason.
If the Cardinals weren't hitting the first pitch of the at-bat, they were batting with two strikes until they could either walk or get a pitch they could handle.
Matt Carpenter set the tone by swinging at Ray's first pitch of the game and lining it to right for a double.
Later in the inning, with one out and the bases loaded, catcher Yadier Molina fell behind 0-2 before he fouled off a pair of pitches and then fought off a fastball, dropping it into right-center for a two-run single.
"He fought off a really good pitch," Ray said. "A fastball jammed him, and it's one of those things where you just tip your cap. He put a decent swing on a really good pitch."
The other two runs of the inning scored on a single by Jedd Gyorko on an 0-2 pitch and double by Yairo Munoz on an 0-1 pitch.
"Aggressive in the strike zone," Molina said. "We swung at good pitches in the strike zone. We didn't chase bad pitches. That was the plan."
It was such a good plan that Ray wanted to go back and look at the video to study what changes he might need to make.
"That's probably something I'll go look at," Ray said. "I'm not really sure what to look for, because I felt great. I felt like I was making my pitches and they were just putting good swings on them. That's usually a pretty good sign that they saw something."
After that 30-pitch first inning, Ray seemed to find his groove, as he kept the Cardinals scoreless on two hits over the next four innings.
"I just think he got in the rhythm, he worked his way into his outing and he got sharper," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. "Robbie unfortunately had that 30-pitch first inning, gave up the four runs, and I think that really put him in a situation where he was not going to be able to pitch deep into the game."
Lovullo tried to get Ray though the sixth inning, but after allowing back-to-back homers to start the frame, Ray's night came to an end.
The loss was the D-backs' fourth straight, and it comes on the heels of an 8-2 road trip they hoped would give them momentum heading into this 10-game homestand.
However, they were swept over the weekend by the Giants and dropped the first game of this three-game series with the Cardinals. Their lead in the National League West over the Dodgers is down to 1 1/2 games.
"It is frustrating," Lovullo said. "I think we're a better team than what we've shown over the past four games.
"We were playing really good baseball, fundamentally sound baseball where the pitching was matching the hitting. Unfortunately, it's not happening right now."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Chance to answer: After the Cardinals scored the four runs in the top of the first the D-backs looked like they might be able to do some real damage against St. Louis starter Carlos Martinez. Jonathan Jay, Paul Goldschmidt and Jake Lamb started things off with singles, with Lamb's scoring Jay. Martinez, however, stopped the damage by retiring the next three hitters.
"Just got too far behind too early to play catch-up, and that was unfortunate," Lovullo said. "I thought we had some really good at-bats, good approach, hit several balls hard, and all the way to the final out I felt like we had a chance."
Goldschmidt finished 4-for-4 with an RBI.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Joey Krehbiel had his contract selected from Triple-A Reno on Monday, and he made his Major League debut in the seventh. The right-hander allowed one hit and a walk while tossing 1 2/3 scoreless innings.
"Those are all special for every one of us," Lovullo said. "We always enjoy those first moments and watching how they execute and the looks on their faces, things you never forget."
Outfielder A.J. Pollock, who was activated off the disabled list on Monday, was hitless in four at-bats but, more importantly, came through the game healthy. Pollock appeared in a pair of rehab games with Reno, but had been away from the D-backs since suffering an avulsion fracture of his left thumb on May 14.
"A.J. looked fine," Lovullo said. "Maybe a little bit off timing-wise and rhythm-wise, but I know that he's excited. He had some quality at-bats."
The D-backs continue their three-game series with the Cardinals at 6:40 MST on Tuesday night with Zack Greinke (8-5, 3.41 ERA) on the mound. The right-hander is in the midst of a 13-inning scoreless streak, having shut out the Pirates (six innings) and Marlins (seven innings) in his last two starts. He will be opposed by St. Louis right-hander Jack Flaherty (3-3, 2.92 ERA).