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Diamondbacks 7, A’s 3: That’ll do to start!

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Spring Training opens with a Ray of sunshine

Robbie Ray fires a fastball at Salt River Fields Sunday February 23
Jack Sommers

Spring record: 1-0. Change vs. 2019: +1.

Robbie Ray came to camp slimmed down and determined to have a strong season in this his “walk year”, as he’ll be a free agent after the 2020 season. It’s been said he has a bit of an edge this spring. The question on everyone’s mind however is whether that will translate into more efficiency and getting deeper into games.

So naturally the game began with a 9 pitch at bat to A’s leadoff hitter Jorge Mateo before getting him swinging at a fastball up and away that would have been ball four. Ray then struck out Ramon Laureano on 6 pitches, walked Chad Pinder on 7 pitches, and finally struck out Seth Brown on 4 pitches. It was a 26 pitch inning but Ray had struck out the side.

Things began much more smoothly in Ray’s 2nd inning of work. Two pitch AB’s to the first two hitters resulted in a fly out and a ground out. Sitting at 30 pitches, Ray had one more batter to face as Torey Lovullo said pre-game Ray would have a 35 pitch limit today. That AB resulted in a walk, Ray’s 2nd of the day, and his outing was over.

Ray’s fastball was sitting at 93-94, and topped out at 95. His slider was moving quite a bit, and overall he looked good. He was especially happy with a curveball he threw to Laureano that froze him for called strike three. Said Robbie, “It doesn’t get any better than that”. However too many foul balls resulted in some long AB’s. Asked if getting deeper into games and upping the innings count was a big part of his goal for him this year, Ray responded:

“Yeah, obviously getting deeper into games, pitching into the 6th, 7th, 8th inning should be every starting pitcher’s goal. I never want to have the ball taken away from me. I’m a competitor, I care about going out and giving quality innings every time. Obviously staying healthy and pitching deeper into games is a goal of mine”

Ketel Marte came to the plate with one out in top half of the first to face A’s starter Chris Bassitt. Marte launched a 1-2 fastball that was middle in high and deep. The ball traveled two thirds of the way up the berm in Right Field to give the D-Backs a 1-0 lead. Here is a view of his pretty swing.

Marte also had a single in the 2nd, and a lineout in the 3rd before being lifted for Josh Rojas to start the 4th.

Nick Ahmed had a really good day. An RBI single in the 1st drove in Kole Calhoun. Lamb challenged Laureano’s arm, one of the best in baseball, and made a nice slide into 3rd to avoid the tag. Ahmed advanced to 2nd on the play with heads up base running. He did much the same thing in 3rd inning, with another base hit to get Lamb over the 3rd and once again advancing to 2nd on the throw.

Nick also made several really nice plays on defense as well. In the top of the 2nd he snare a sharp grounder deep in the hole with a back hand stop, and made a strong throw over to 1st to an outstretched Kevin Cron, who also made a nice pick. In the 3rd he grabbed a high chopper in the hole that went over Lamb’s head and just nabbed the speedy Mateo with another strong throw.

The D-backs offense scored a run in the 2nd on three singles and sac fly by Calhoun, then plated three more runs in the 3rd to take a 6-0 lead. Notable in that inning was Wyatt Mathisen collecting his second hit of the day, anRBI single to left. He has a nice swing. Don’t sleep on him. He could see some MLB at bats this year and might be a nice surprise at the plate.

The Diamondbacks brand of smart aggressive base running and good defense was on display early and often today, which was a good thing to see. They came ready to play this first game of spring.

Taylor Clarke, who’d threw a 10 pitch scoreless 3rd, surrendered three runs in the 4th on three hits and a walk to make it 6-3. From there, reserves from both teams started to pile into the game. Daulton Varsho made a perfect throw down to 2nd on a strike ‘em out throw em’ out double play to end the 5th.

In the 6th Pavin Smith hit a sharp one hopper through the hole between 1st and 2nd for a base hit. He then tagged up to 2nd on a fly to the track in center off the bat of Josh Rojas. He was stranded there, but again, it was good aggressive base running. The Diamondback way.

Josh Green, Michael’s sleeper pick for starts this year, pitched two scoreless innings, allowing a couple of harmless hits. Junior Guerra made his Diamondback debut in the 7th. He walked the leadoff batter, then got a force at 2nd that just barely missed being a double play as the A’s runner beat the relay by an eyelash. He finished off the inning with a strikeout and a pickoff caught stealing to complete a nice debut inning.

Ildemaro Vargas hit a hustle double in the 7th. It was a sharp line drive to right that normally should have been a single. But he caught the Oakland outfielder taking his time getting over. Never hesitating, Vargas went all the way into 2nd on a head first slide. The Diamondbacks Way. Ben Deluzio followed with a triple to centerfield to score Vargas. DeLuzio is CRAZY fast. Most players would have had a double on the hit, but I blinked and he was already rounding 2nd base.

Yoan Lopez pitched a scoreless top of the 8th on just 11 pitches, striking out one. Pavin Smith lead off the bottom half with a solid line shot to CF for his 2nd hit of the game. He was stranded there however.

Kevin Ginkel came on to pitch the 9th to close it out. He struck out the lead off hitter, but allowed a hit on a ball to 2nd. Josh Rojas attempted a sliding stop, but the ball kicked off his glove. He struck out the next batter looking but then allowed the runner to move to 2nd on a wild pitch. Walking the next batter put runners on 1st and 2nd with two outs. His second wild pitch of the inning moved the runners up to 2nd and 3rd. He finally struck out the last batter swinging for his 3rd K of the inning to end the game.

Overall, with the exception of the 9th perhaps, this was a very well played game by the DBacks. This was no typical sloppy first game of spring. They were sharp throughout, played heads up baseball, fielded well, ran well, pitched well, and had plenty of offense.

Torey Lovullo’s post-game thoughts