Diamondbacks undaunted by challenging schedule

PHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks will play the final five weeks of the season against what the numbers suggest will be their most treacherous array of opponents yet.

They shrug at the thought — open their arms, actually.

The Diamondbacks will play 27 of their final 35 games — eight series — against teams that not only are above .500 and but also appear likely to stay that way.

On Friday though, the Diamondbacks got off on the wrong foot in a 6-3 loss to AL West contender Seattle.

The Diamondbacks remained one game ahead in the NL West when Colorado lost at home to surging St. Louis.

Arizona is ready to take on all comers, manager Torey Lovullo suggested.

“To be conditioned to play against the best teams, those are conversations we have had since Day 1 here,” said Lovullo, in his second season after winning the NL Manager of the Year award when the D-backs were an NL wild-card team in 2017.

“We have to be at our best against the best, and they (players) want this. This is the greatest time of the year, and these players in this clubhouse know that. They walked through a very challenging year last year and came out on the right side of it, but we have more work we have to do. We know what we want to get to, and it’s right in front of us.”

Arizona left-hander Robbie Ray (3-2, 4.91 ERA) is scheduled to oppose Seattle left-hander Wade LeBlanc (7-3, 4.04) in the second game of the series Saturday.

The Mariners‘ final five weeks do not appear quite as challenging. They play seven games against Oakland and three against Houston and the Yankees, but they also have seven games with Texas, three with Baltimore and two with San Diego.

Mariners outfielder Mitch Haniger, traded with Jean Segura from the Diamondbacks for Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte before the 2017 season, had three hits Friday, including his 21st homer.

“You always want to do well against every team, especially a team that traded you,” Haniger said.

Haniger, who played sparingly with Arizona in 2016, has five homers in 20 career games at Chase Field.

A day after making his first major league start at third base, Robinson Cano made his third career start at first, all this season. He could not scoop two one-hop throws when the D-backs scored two unearned runs in the sixth inning, but the Mariners’ bullpen locked it down from there as Edwin Diaz recorded his franchise-record 49th save of the season.

Ray was pushed back to start Saturday when Zack Godley was moved ahead to pitch Friday. Ray will pitch on seven days’ rest after giving up three runs and five walks in 4 1/3 innings while receiving a no-decision in an 8-3 victory at San Diego last Friday.

Ray is 0-2 with a 5.55 ERA in his last nine starts. He missed two months with a strained oblique and threw six scoreless innings in his first game back June 27, but has not been as effective since.

“It gives Robbie an extra day to work on the side with (pitching coach) Mike Butcher,” Lovullo said. “Robbie is throwing the ball well. He feels great. There is no injury whatsoever.”

Ray has walked 15 in his last 20 innings over four starts. He has shown flashes of the form that saw him post a 2.89 ERA in a career-year in 2017 but has not found a rhythm this year.

“It was all self-inflicted,” Ray said of his last start.

Ray is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in two career starts against Seattle. He won in Seattle on July 27, 2015, giving up two runs in seven innings while striking out eight.

He has had difficulty at home this season, going 1-1 with a 7.18 ERA in seven starts at Chase Field. He has allowed 13 homers this season, 12 at home in 36 1/3 innings.

LeBlanc joined the rotation in May but has scuffled a bit in August, giving up 15 earned runs in his four starts this month. He gave up three homers in 4 1/3 innings in an 8-3 loss against Houston on Aug. 1 and gave up three more in 4 1/3 innings in an 11-1 loss to the Dodgers on Aug. 17.

LeBlanc, who spent the first four seasons of his career with San Diego, is 3-3 with a 4.47 ERA in 13 career appearances (nine starts) against Arizona. He is 1-3 with a 7.20 ERA in six games at Chase Field.