Diamondbacks’ Ray hopes for better outing against Phillies

PHOENIX — Zack Greinke owns the biggest name on the Arizona Diamondbacks’ pitching staff. So far this season, Robbie Ray owns the best numbers.

Ray, who recently went through a five-game stretch allowing only one earned run, starts Saturday night against the Philadelphia Phillies at Chase Field, and no doubt the left-hander wants to be more effective than he was in his lone less-than-dominating start during the last month.

That came Sunday in Philadelphia, where Ray surrendered eight hits, four runs and four walks in 5 1/3 innings — even though the Diamondbacks came back to win 5-4 in 10 innings.

It was a rare off day for Ray, who is 5-0 with a 1.06 ERA (five earned runs in 42 1/3 innings) and 55 strikeouts in his last six starts — all of them Diamondbacks victories.

“It wasn’t my best outing,” Ray said after receiving the no-decision on Sunday. “I was just trying to keep the team in it after the first few innings … go as deep as I can and try to win the game.”

Arizona subsequently did that, prompting Ray to say, “That was huge.”

Ray has been coming up big himself this season. He and Greinke (8-4), who pitches Monday against Philadelphia, are teaming to give manager Torey Lovullo two aces on a team that’s enjoying a surprisingly good season after losing 93 games last year, despite a 6-1 loss to Philadelphia on Friday night.

Ray had a scoreless streak of 27 2/3 innings from May 14 to June 6, and he’s 7-3 with 114 strikeouts and a 2.87 ERA in 14 starts overall.

Against the Phillies, Ray is 1-1 with a 5.19 ERA in three career starts. He’ll oppose right-hander Ben Lively (1-1, 3.33 ERA), who gave up eight hits and three runs in six innings in that Sunday game. He was in line to get the win until the bullpen gave away a late-inning lead in the ninth and the game itself in the 10th, when Rey Fuentes won it for Arizona with his first career home run.

Overall, Lively is 1-1 with a 3.33 ERA in four major league starts, striking out 11 and walking eight in 27 innings.

The Diamondbacks came into the series against the major league-worst Phillies — losers of 13 of their last 16 — as one of the majors’ hottest teams, winning seven of eight on a road trip and nine in 10 games overall.

But even though the Cardinals and the Rockies are coming on the Diamondbacks’ current homestand, Lovullo didn’t want his team looking ahead — or looking back to taking two of three in Colorado, where Arizona scored 26 runs in the final two games.

For good reason, too, as the Diamondbacks generated little offensively Friday against rookie right-hander Mark Leiter Jr., who shut them out on three hits in six innings.

“These guys have been so resilient, strong and ready for every moment every single day. But I just wanted to make sure after an emotional series in Colorado, after a tremendous road trip that we don’t have any type of letdown,” Lovullo said. “I know the Philadelphia Phillies, despite their record, are a quality team that’s played a lot of tough games of late. They’ve had a chance to win a lot of games. But know they’re very capable and a dangerous team and we’re not going to take them lightly.”

Lovullo said it’s no secret why Arizona’s offense is catching up to a pitching staff that has carried the team for much of the season — or at least it was before the Friday night setback.

“(Timely hitting) is something that’s been coming, it’s been on the rise, it was one area of concern (previously),” Lovullo said. “The numbers are bearing that … Defensively, we’ve been a team that’s improving day by day, making the routine plays and even the above-average plays. That, in combination with good pitching, has been very timely for us.”

The Phillies sat down outfielder-second baseman Howie Kendrick with left hamstring tightness after initially having him in the starting lineup, but he came on to contribute a pinch-hit double to a four-run ninth inning. Kendrick, who is hitting .355, was out for more than a month with an oblique injury earlier this season.

“He’s fine, he said he thinks he’ll be ready (Saturday),” Phillies manager Pete Mackanin said. “I contemplated whether to let him pitch, but I decided to use my best hitter there.”

Just like the Diamondbacks will start the man currently is their best pitcher on Saturday.