DENVER — Arizona left-hander Robbie Ray hopes the step forward he took in a bullpen session Tuesday will carry over to his start Thursday in the rubber game between the Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.
The Rockies blasted the Diamondbacks 19-2 on Wednesday night, scoring 18 runs in the first four innings and ending Arizona’s nine-game winning streak at Coors Field.
Ray (3-1, 5.23 ERA) will be opposed by Rockies left-hander Kyle Freeland (8-6, 3.18), who has been Colorado’s most effective starter. In his past 14 outings, Freeland is 8-3 with a 2.59 ERA, and the Rockies are 9-5 in those games. In his last start Saturday at Seattle, Freeland pitched five innings — his shortest outing since he went four innings April 18 — and allowed five hits, one run and a season-high-tying four walks with four strikeouts. He was lifted after throwing 94 pitches and didn’t factor in the decision as the Rockies won 5-1.
It wasn’t a bad start, but it was also a teaching tool for Freeland. He entered the fifth with a one-run lead when, with a 1-1 count on leadoff hitter Jean Segura, “I threw a bad backdoor slider” that Segura pulled down the left-field line for a home run. Freeland said, “Out of my hand, I knew that ball’s going somewhere.”
Freeland did his best with what he had.
“My body didn’t feel good,” he said. “My pitching arsenal wasn’t all there. I had to grind through at-bats and a really good lineup. I was able to realize early, I don’t have good stuff, so I need to focus on the things I do have, which was somewhat of fastball command and my changeup was playing really well. I was getting them out in front and using those two tools to go as far in the game as possible. I just kept the thought in my mind like, ‘Get as deep as you can with as little damage and leave this game with our team (having) a chance to win the game, no matter what.’”
Freeland is 1-2 with a 4.74 ERA in four career starts against the Diamondbacks, and is 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA against them this year, losing 8-3 on June 10 at Coors Field when he gave up four runs in six innings.
Ray was originally scheduled to start Friday at Atlanta. But he will start Thursday on regular rest in place of Zack Godley, who will get an extra day of rest after working one inning Sunday, when he threw 23 pitches on one day of rest in Arizona’s 4-3 loss in 16 innings to San Diego.
Ray has made four starts after being sidelined two months with a right oblique strain. He is 0-1 with a 9.64 ERA in his past two starts. After going 15-5 with a 2.89 ERA while averaging 3.9 walks per nine innings last year, Ray is averaging 5.0 walks per nine innings this season.
After a bullpen session Tuesday at Coors Field, Ray told the Arizona Republic, “I’m where I’m at for a reason. I’ve probably been pressing a little more than I should be. I put a lot of pressure on myself, because I feel like I’m a really good pitcher. The results haven’t really been there. It’s been frustrating for sure. But I’m getting back to a good place.”
Ray, who is 3-3 with a 5.74 ERA in 10 career starts against Colorado, said he has discovered how to time the movement of his hands and legs in his windup.
“Honestly, I feel like he’s really close,” Arizona pitching coach Mike Butcher told the Republic. “As you look at most of his starts last year, it was pretty well synched up and it was good rhythm and good tempo with hands and his knee. When your timing is there and your rhythm is there, a lot of things link up, and your timing and release point will get on point. I think we’re moving in the right direction.”