Dodgers solve Arizona’s Robbie Ray when he loses command of his slider in Game 2
The Dodgers collected 129 plate appearances against Arizona left-hander Robbie Ray during the regular season. He struck them out 53 times, an absurd 41% rate, and had a sterling 2.27 earned-run average after giving up eight runs in 30 innings.
The cause was clear: He proved he could whip his biting slider across the plate for a low strike, which later forced the Dodgers to chase it further and further.
On Saturday night at Dodger Stadium, he could not do the former. The Dodgers refused to do the latter.
“It was down in the zone,” Logan Forsythe said. “But it wasn’t that good strike at the bottom of the zone.”
The Dodgers amassed eight baserunners and four runs over Ray’s 4 ⅓ innings in their 8-5 Game 2 win in the National League Division Series. The in-season experience appeared to help, as did a pregame meeting, when their hitting coaches harped on the necessity of waiting out his sweeping sliders.
“When we keep him in the zone, we do well,” Forsythe said. “The average is up, the slug is up, everything’s up. We just get more barrels to the ball.”
Ray’s fatigue also might have aided the Dodgers. He was working on something of short rest, having thrown 34 pitches out of the bullpen against Colorado in Wednesday’s wild-card game. He said that did not affect his performance.
Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo noticed Ray “spraying around” early breaking balls. Some, Lovullo said, were quality pitches, but a few notably lacked their typical sheen.
“I wasn’t able to land it as much for strikes,” Ray said.
Only Cody Bellinger and Kyle Farmer, the Dodgers’ two rookie hitters, struck out swinging against Ray’s slider. The rest of the team mostly let it pass by them, typically for a ball. Corey Seager took one for a called third strike.
“That’s obviously the better approach we’ve had against him,” said Austin Barnes, who singled off Ray and walked. “We’ve seen him many times, so we knew what we were going to get. I think we did a good job of zoning him up and making him work.”
Ray said he felt fine. His velocity was there, his fastball steadily at 95 mph, as strong as it ever is. The Dodgers didn’t manage a hit until a Forsythe single with one out in the fourth. Ray was just wild.
“It’s not like they were putting the ball all over the field,” he said.
Ray owned the Diamondbacks’ best earned-run average over the season. On Monday in Phoenix, their nominal ace, Zack Greinke, will attempt to prolong this series.
Up two games to zero in the best-of-five series, the Dodgers can’t lose the NLDS unless they face Ray in a Game 5 at Dodger Stadium on Thursday.
Follow Pedro Moura on Twitter @pedromoura
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