Diamondbacks turn to Ray vs. Phillies (Jun 18, 2017)

PHILADELPHIA — As if things haven’t been going bad enough for the Philadelphia Phillies, Sunday they’ll face the hottest pitcher in baseball.

After handing the Phillies (22-45) their 10th loss in 11 games, the Arizona Diamondbacks (43-26) will send Robbie Ray to the mound with a sweep on their minds Sunday.

Ray (7-3, 2.62 ERA) has been lights out in his last five starts, compiling a perfect 5-0 record while allowing one run in 37 innings. Ray entered play Saturday tied for the fourth-most strikeouts (107) in baseball and he owns a 1.07 WHIP, which placed him seventh among National League hurlers.

Ray’s run of success prompted manager Torey Lovullo to call it “as good as any stretch he’s ever seen.”

It would be surprising to expect the Phillies to derail him in any way. They have five of the 28 qualified hitters in baseball with sub-.300 on-base percentages.

Ray faced the Phillies twice — his only two times — in a span of 10 days last year, once at home and once on the road. In 12 innings he posted a 4.50 ERA and a 1-1 record.

In the start at Philadelphia, Ray allowed two runs on seven hits in six innings in a 10-2 Arizona win on June 17, 2016. He struck out seven and walked one.

Rookie Ben Lively, who the Phillies hope is providing youthful energy to a group that needs a boost, is starting Sunday. The right-hander is 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA in three starts and in 21 innings he has five strikeouts and seven walks.

Phillies manager Pete Mackanin has been impressed so far with his ability to get hitters out by attacking the zone.

“If I was a pitcher on this team and saw Lively pitch, it has to make an impression and it should on the other pitchers to attack the strike zone,” Mackanin said, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

He’s also faced some stiff competition, too.

In Lively’s first three starts he was opposed by David Price, R.A. Dickey and Johnny Cueto, who account for two Cy Young awards and a combined eight All-Star appearances.

Fittingly, he’ll face off against one of baseball’s best pitchers thus far in 2017.

Like many of his colleagues, Lively will be lucky to get run support these days, no matter against Ray or whoever. Mackanin has shuffled the club’s lineup many times throughout the last few weeks, trying anything to spark success.

Nothing has worked.

Since starting 11-9 in their first 20 games, the Phillies have lost 36 of 47.

Arizona, meanwhile, continues to look more and more like a team that has staying power in 2017. With good starting pitching and one of the best run-producing teams in the league, the Diamondbacks will likely find themselves in a long race out west.

Lovullo wouldn’t bite Saturday when asked to comment on Dodgers manager Dave Roberts calling his team the best. He’s letting the play on the field do the talking.

“We’re really focused on what we do day-by-day, we’re very proud of what we’re accomplishing day-by-day,” Lovullo said earlier in the week. “We’ve got a lot of baseball to go. We’ve put ourselves in a good position and it’s time to continue moving in the right direction.”

A sweep on Sunday will help.