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Snake Bytes, 5/4: Shipley arrives in port

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No pressure, Braden. Your debut sees you just dueling a guy whose mantelpiece has TWO Cy Youngs on it...

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MLB: San Diego Padres at Arizona Diamondbacks Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Recaps

[AZ Central] Flu-ridden Diamondbacks fall to Nationals - For two days, Brandon Drury had been trudging around Nationals Park before games, a hoodie covering his head. He had come down with a version of the illness that has been passed around the clubhouse the past few weeks, but Drury did not want it to keep him from doing his job... The illness likely had a part in the outcome. Not only did Drury strike out in all three of his at-bats – each with runners on base – but he was also unable to make a backhanded play on a Bryce Harper ball in the sixth, a single that led to the go-ahead run.

[AP] D-backs' bats go silent, leaving Ray with hard-luck loss - Ray struck out his first five batters and was perfect until Michael Taylor tripled to lead off the third. Yasmany Tomas lost that hit in the lights while making an awkward lunge at it, and then remained on the ground as Pollock chased. “The part we’re going to address as quickly as possible — and we have addressed it — is that he needs to get up and chase that ball and make a little bit of a better effort,” Lovullo said.

[Arizona Sports] D-backs set MLB record for consecutive games of 10 or more strikeouts - The D-backs matched the previous record Tuesday that was also held by the 2014 Cleveland Indians from Sept. 16-23, 2014, and the 2012 Milwaukee Brewers, whose eight-game stretch occurred from Aug. 20-28, 2012. Ray’s five strikeouts to start the game came one strikeout away from the team record of six to begin an outing. Randy Johnson (four times) and Curt Schilling (once) are the only former D-backs to begin a game with four or more strikeouts in a row.

[MLB] Ryan Zimmerman hits RBI double as Nats win - The D-backs offense could not capitalize on a shaky start from left-hander Gio Gonzalez. He surrendered a solo homer in the first inning to Chris Owings, but did not yield another run in five erratic innings where he walked seven but struck out eight. "He did a good job of making pitches when he had to," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said of Gonzalez. "We had some situations -- although they were very limited -- situations to score some runs, and we didn't do it."

Team news

[Dbacks.com] Shipley makes season debut vs. Nats Thursday - Shipley is hoping he can utilize an improved fastball this season. In 2016, his heater was typically clocked in the low 90s, but the right-hander trained in the offseason to get that number up a few ticks. "My velocity's been really good to start the year," Shipley said Wednesday. "Even with the cold weather, I don't think I've had a start where I've dipped below 90 [mph] and consistently hitting 95, and I think I still have more in the tank."

[FanGraphs] Is That Curveball Everything Robbie Ray Needed? - Time to sound the New Pitch siren because Robbie Ray is throwing a curveball! And, at least early in the season, it looks like it matters: after a year spent wondering why his balls in play kept finding grass and suffering while his run-prevention marks failed to match his fielding-independent ones, the Arizona lefty finally has the numbers you might expect for a guy who’s been among the top 15 in strikeout rate among starters since he entered the league.

[Arizona Sports] Interview with Amiel Sawdaye - The Diamondbacks Sr. Vice President & assistant general managerm Amiel Sawdaye, doesn't necessarily consider the D-backs an analytical organization. I guess perhaps it's all relative: it certainly feels, compared to the Dave Stewart era, like the computer lab at MIT...

[Beyond the Box Score] The Diamondbacks rotation rocked in April, but can it continue? - The Diamondbacks have an average to slightly above average rotation, with upside potential from Robbie Ray and Taijuan Walker. They have put themselves in position to be relevant well into the summer, especially since other wild card contenders are suffering serious rotational problems (the Giants with Bumgarner and the Mets with Noah Syndergaard). This rotation is not likely to bring the DBacks to the World Series, but they had a strong enough April where they can stay relevant for a good portion of the season. Unfortunately, if Greinke and Corbin regress, they could be out of the playoff hunt as quickly as they came into it.

[AZ Central] Archie Bradley on board with decision to remain in Diamondbacks' bullpen - “It’s weird,” Bradley said. “Being in this situation, you want to do anything you can to help the team. You have this idea and opinion of where your career is going to go and what you’re going to be, and this is the first time I’ve had second thoughts about what I’m going to do career-wise. It’s tough because I am throwing the ball well and this role seems to fit me well, but at the same time I still think I can start and win games as a starter. And also putting the team first and dictating what’s the best role for this team right now. Honestly, it’s one of those things where I’m trying to just roll with it, and whenever that phone rings, be ready.”

[Washington Post] Relievers are so valuable now that career starters are being moved to the bullpen - “Let him continue to have success and blossom as a reliever,” Torey Lovullo explained Tuesday in regards to Bradley. “Long term, as we’ve talked about, we still want him to be a starter. When and if that happens, we can’t put a date on it. But for right now, with what we need, [Bradley] coming out of the bullpen, with the dominance that he’s had, it just made a lot of sense to leave him there.” The usage of Bradley underscores both the progressive philosophy of the Diamondbacks’ new regime — led by General Manager Mike Hazen in the front office and Lovullo, a first-year manager, in the dugout — and the rising value of relief pitching in relation to starting pitching across the industry.

[Fox Sports] Bradley the mastermind behind D-backs' patriotic dress up

And, elsewhere...

[LA Times] Friend flushes baseball fan's ashes down ballpark toilets across the nation
- A New York City man is on a mission to flush the cremated remains of his lifelong friend — a plumber — down ballpark toilets around the country. Tom McDonald tells the New York Times that it's a fitting tribute for Roy Riegel. The two baseball fans were childhood friends in Queens, not far from — wait for it — Flushing Meadows, where the Mets play. Like baseball, this endeavor has rules. The game has to be in progress when McDonald sprinkles the ashes into the toilet from a little plastic bottle. So far, he's done the deed at 16 stadiums.

[NY Times] Luis Olmo, a Pioneering Puerto Rican Baseball Player, Dies at 97 - Luis Olmo, who became the first Puerto Rican position player in the major leagues when he made his debut with the 1943 Brooklyn Dodgers, helping to create a path for the dozens of Puerto Rican ballplayers who have made a major impact on the game, died on Friday in Santurce, P.R. He was 97 and had been the oldest living former Dodger.

[Battle Creek Enquirer] One-armed middle school catcher is incredible to watch
- Luke Terry has defied the odds his entire life. What he does on a baseball diamond shouldn't surprise anyone. Luke is a 14-year-old eighth-grade catcher at Cornersville Middle School. He also has only one arm. Let that sink in for a moment.. He's made catching an art form. Luke catches the ball from his pitcher, flips it at approximately shoulder height, dropping his glove almost simultaneously. He grabs the ball in mid-air and throws it back to his pitcher, or to a base if someone is trying to steal.