PHOENIX — For a while, it looked like vintage Robbie Ray showed up to the Arizona Diamondbacks’ first home game of the season against their biggest rival.
Unfortunately, the Robbie Ray of 2019 emerged in the fourth inning.
Three effective and efficient innings were wiped out by a 29-pitch fourth inning that was capped off by a three-run home run from the Dodgers’ Corey Seager.
The homer was the lone blemish from Ray in seven innings, but he was outdueled by emerging ace Walker Buehler, who took a perfect game into the fifth inning in a 3-1 Dodgers victory on Monday.
“If we win this game 5-3 and do a lot more offensively, we’re talking all about Robbie Ray’s outing,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said after the game. “I don’t want to overlook that because Robbie was really good tonight and gave us seven complete innings.”
It can be argued that Ray’s performance against the Dodgers, the National League’s highest scoring team, was a step forward after he turned in his worst start of the season less than a week ago against Colorado.
He reached the seventh inning for the first time in 13 starts this season and walked just one batter in a game for the first time since April.
Ray’s control was even more impressive considering Los Angeles entered the game with the second-most walks in the majors.
The lefty needed just 98 pitches to get through seven innings, with 67 of those being strikes.
For the game, Ray allowed just six hits and struck out nine.
“I felt really good tonight,” Ray said. “I felt like my command was the best it has been this all year. I was padding the zone, keeping them off balance with my off-speed.”
Even so, Ray couldn’t avoid the big inning that has hampered his ability to reach his 2017 form, when he carried a career-best 2.89 ERA and tied his career mark of 218 strikeouts.
The decisive fourth inning was aided by Ray’s only walk of the game before Seager blasted a 414-foot home run into the seats.
“I was trying to elevate a fastball and didn’t get it up high enough,” Ray said of Seager’s home run. “Really just one mistake there. That’s about it.”
With emerging top option Luke Weaver out indefinitely with his arm injury, Arizona is going to need its best from Ray more consistently if the team wants to stay in contention deep into the season.
Especially on nights when the offense struggles, like it did Monday.
Buehler was almost immaculate. He allowed just two hits in eight innings and struck out 11 D-back batters.
“If you’re a fan of pitching, this would have been a really fun game to watch,” Lovullo said. “Both guys were really getting after it.”
Arizona (30-31) and Los Angeles resume their three-game series Tuesday at 6:40 p.m. You can hear that game on 98.7 FM Arizona’s Sports Station.