Major League Baseball

D-Backs turn to new ace Ray vs. revamped Nats

NATIONALS (57-51) AT DIAMONDBACKS (54-55)
9:40 p.m. ET; FS-A, MASN2, MLB.TV

Robbie Ray is still a member of the Arizona Diamondbacks (-1.5), and he will get the team’s first start after the trade deadline against the Washington Nationals (-1.5) on Friday night in Phoenix.

Ray (9-7, 3.91 ERA) was mentioned in plenty of trade discussions before Wednesday’s deadline, but the D-backs held on to the 27-year-old left-hander and instead dealt ace Zack Greinke to the Houston Astros (-1.5). That makes Ray, under team control through the 2020 season, the new ace.

“I think Zack has passed along a ton of knowledge and, in his own way, a lot of the leadership skills that he takes with him every fifth day,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo told reporters.

“To me, Robbie Ray is stepping into that new role. He’s going to be that version that we’re looking for, but I don’t want Robbie Ray to try to be any better than he already is right now. We’re watching somebody emerge as a very, very good pitcher.”

Ray has been very good lately, but has had no success against the Nationals. He will be looking for his first win against Washington, having gone 0-5 with a 6.52 ERA in six career starts.

Washington, meanwhile, hopes to be showing off its shiny new bullpen pieces in the three-game series. The Nats added right-hander Daniel Hudson from the Toronto Blue Jays (+1.5), along with left-hander Roenis Elias and righty Hunter Strickland from the Seattle Mariners (+1.5). In all, the Nationals gave up four pitching prospects.

The Nationals need them to help construct the new bridge from a standout rotation to closer Sean Doolittle.

“These aren’t the sexiest names in the trade market,” president of baseball operations Mike Rizzo said on MLB.com, “but we think we got good quality, reliable guys with some moxie and some experience.”

Hudson is 6-3 with a 3.00 ERA in 45 games. Elias is 4-2 with a 4.40 ERA in 44 games. Strickland has pitched in just four games with the Mariners due to a lat strain but was activated earlier this week after missing four months. He is 0-1 with an 8.10 ERA in just four outings this season after missing two months with a lat strain.

“We’ve improved our baseball team with three really good relief pitchers, two of them that we control for the long haul,” said Rizzo, discounting Hudson, whose contract is up at the end of the season. “And it shows the guys in that room that we appreciate how we’ve been playing, and we see you, we believe it, and we’re all in it for the long haul.”

Washington and Arizona are chasing a wild-card spot at the moment, with the Nationals in better shape, 3 1/2 games better than Diamondbacks.

Friday might provide a good chance to see that new Washington bullpen, inasmuch as the starter will be right-hander Joe Ross (0-3, 9.85). Ross is stretched out, throwing 98 pitches in his only start of the season on July 21 and following up with 86 pitches while piggy-backing on an opener Saturday. But he gave up nine earned runs in 10 innings in those two appearances.

He is 1-0 with a 1.80 ERA in two career starts vs. Arizona.

Ray had won four consecutive decisions before losing Sunday at Miami, although he pitched well, allowing three runs (two earned) in six innings, striking out 11 and walking none. He gave up five runs in six innings in a 7-3 loss at Washington on June 14.

–Field Level Media

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