If Diamondbacks manager Chip Hale expected to get life and distance from starter Robbie Ray Tuesday night, think again. Ray, winless in nearly two months, was barraged from the beginning, and left the Diamondbacks in a vulnerable position against the team with the best record in baseball.
Just two days ago, the Diamondbacks were an excited bunch and seemingly ready to make a serious run at the National League West division title. The St. Louis Cardinals, moving into Chase Field for a four game set, provided both a formidable challenge and an enormous opportunity to demonstrate they could be part of this conversation.
To their surprise, lack of defensive execution in the opener of the series and implosion from Ray Tuesday night seem to take the Diamondbacks miles from their position at the start of the current St. Louis series.
By virtue of Ray’s worst performance of the season, the Cardinals beat up on the Diamondbacks, 9-1 before another spare crowd of 18,720 Tuesday night in Chase Field. Pulled after three innings and two hitters in the fourth, Ray was lifted after giving up five hits, six runs, all earned and walked a season-high five batters. His ERA rose from 3.38 at the start of the game to a present 3.86.
At this point, the Diamondbacks can only hope to split this set with St. Louis and at worst, lose the ground they dreaded to the NL West Division-leading Los Angeles Dodgers. With the Dodgers win at Cincinnati Tuesday, the Diamondbacks now fall 6.5 games behind L. A. Though Arizona has lost only two straight, the slide seems more dramatic.
“I don’t analyze things very much, but these kinds of games do happen,” said centerfielder A. J. Pollock. “(The Cardinals) have a great team, and we have a great team. This one got away from us. When we get down, we usual recover.”
For his part, Ray seemed to implode after the first batter. That’s when the left-hander walked Matt Carpenter to open the game. That followed with four St. Louis hits, an additional walk in the frame and four runs allowed. Ray ended the first inning with 44 pitches.
Ray discounted the walk to Carpenter as unsettling, but represented a clear opening for disaster. Instead, he said dismissed the end result of his lop-sided loss casually and only said, “this was just a bump in the road.”
Still, his approach was similar to any other start. Each time he takes to the mound, Ray said, the objective is obvious.
“I try and give my team a quality start,” he said. “(Tuesday night), I could not command my fast ball. I’m a fast ball pitcher, and when I get down, especially to a team like that, they make you pay.”
Facing Cardinals’ left-hander Jaime Garcia proved another challenge that Diamondbacks were unable to overcome. Coming into the game, Garcia sported a 1.79 ERA and ended his night after going six strong innings and allowing one run. After increasing his season record to 6-4, Garcia also lowered his ERA a bit to 1.77
Garcia’s mastery of the Arizona line-up and adequate relief from Seth Maness and Steve Cishek fueled the victory. The Diamondbacks’ lone run came across in the fourth. That’s when Aaron Hill’s sacrifice fly scored Paul Goldschmidt, who doubled and moved to third on a wild pitch.
Otherwise, the Diamondbacks managed to put more than one runner on base during only one inning. That was the sixth. With one out, an infield single by Pollock and Goldschmidt’s single to center put runners on first and second. From there, catcher Welington Castillo struck out and Hill grounded out to short.
Even with Matt Adams, Matt Holliday, John Jay, Adam Wainwright, Jordan Walden and Randal Grichuk, the bulk of their production, on the disabled list, the Cardinals still find ways to win. To Hale, that dimension has become perfectly clear over the opening two games of this series.
“(St. Louis) came in here energized, and put on a clinic on how to play the game,” Hale said. “So far, they’ve done everything right and that’s from running the bases, hitting and pitching. It’s been tough and hard to keep it keep it close.”
THE LAST TIME
The eight run defeat was the largest negative margin against the Diamondbacks in a game since they lost 11-1 to the Nationals at home on May 11. They also dropped an eight run decision (8-0) to the Pirates, as home as well, on April 26 and 8-0 to the Dodgers in Los Angeles on May 1.