MIAMI — The Arizona Diamondbacks are thrilled that left-hander Robbie Ray is coming off the disabled list to start Wednesday in the third contest of a four-game series against the Miami Marlins.
The teams have split the first two contests with Arizona winning 5-3 on Tuesday [url=http://www.cowboyscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-demarcus-ware-jersey]DeMarcus Ware Jersey[/url] , due in large part to John Ryan Murphy’s three RBIs.
Meanwhile, Ray (2-0, 4.88 ERA) is off to a slow start compared to his breakout year of 2017, when he went 15-5 with a 2.89 ERA, making the All-Star Game for the first time. He also finished seventh in the Cy Young voting.
On Wednesday, he will make his first start since April 29, when he was sidelined by a strained right oblique.
“I feel ready for this,” Ray told mlb.com. “I feel like I’m in really good shape. My arm feels good. My oblique is fine. I want to pitch and give us a chance to win.”
Ray, who averaged 30 starts in each of the past two years, will be making only his seventh appearance of 2018. He won his first two starts and then had four no-decisions and lasted just 1 1/3 innings on the night of his injury.
He has only two quality starts this year and was going to make a rehab appearance Monday night at Triple-A Las Vegas when the Diamondbacks coaches called him to tell him to come to South Florida instead.
Two rehab starts, Ray said, were enough.
“My first (rehab) start was rough,” he said. “After not pitching for eight weeks, there was some rust to knock off. But that second start, I felt good. All my pitches were working in all four quadrants, up, down, in and out.”
Ray, who has averaged 93 mph this year on his fastball, made his major league debut in 2014 and has improved his strikeout rate per nine innings in every season (6.0 [url=http://www.coltscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-reggie-wayne-jersey]Reggie Wayne Jersey[/url] , 8.4, 11.3, 12.1).
So far this season, Ray has improved in that stat again, striking out 14.6 batters per nine, which would lead all major league starters if he had enough innings to qualify.
Part of the strikeout formula for Ray, which began last year, is using his curve more, adding one more plus pitch to go with his fastball and slider.
On Wednesday, however, the Diamondbacks will be careful with Ray, not wanting to push him for too many innings in his first game off the DL.
“We’re just going to see how each inning goes,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said. “We will make adjustments from there.”
Ray is 1-2 with a 3.06 ERA in three career starts versus Miami.
Meanwhile, the Marlins will counter with their own left-hander, Wei-Yin Chen (2-4, 6.70 ERA), who has been a major disappointment for Miami ever since signing a five-year, $80 million contract prior to the 2016 season.
Chen, who has mediocre velocity with an average of 90.5 mph on his fastball, is 9-10 in his time with the Marlins.
The Marlins are 5-6 this year when Chen starts. Chen has managed only two quality starts this year.
Chen [url=http://www.bearscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-joel-iyiegbuniwe-jersey]Joel Iyiegbuniwe Jersey[/url] , who turns 33 next month, is averaging 6.5 strikeouts per nine, which is the worst mark of his career. His 4.5 walks are also on track to be a career worst.
In other news, the Marlins on Wednesday will get back manager Don Mattingly, who served a one-game league suspension Tuesday. Miami’s Dan Straily was also suspended, as the pitcher and his manager were faulted for their roles in a beanball war that broke out against the San Francisco Giants on June 19.
The Marlins are also expecting the return of catcher and All-Star candidate J.T. Realmuto, who missed the previous two starts after being hit with a foul ball while squatting behind the plate.
Realmuto, who is hitting .308 with 18 doubles, three triples, 10 home runs, 32 RBIs and a .916 OPS, was struck on his left wrist.
“He’s got a lot more range of motion now,” Mattingly told The Miami Herald. “The X-rays were negative, but we want to get the swelling and the soreness out of there.”
The Tampa Bay Lightning, with a primary assist from a team that handled them during the regular season, are back in the Eastern Conference final for the third time in four years.
Thank you, Boston Bruins.
”I guess I can say it now. Boston set the bar for us, and we played them three times late in the year,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said after his team’s 3-1 victory over the Bruins ended their second-round playoff series in five games.
”The first two times we played them, they literally manhandled us. … and we knew if we were going to go anywhere when we made the playoffs [url=http://www.billscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-thurman-thomas-jersey]Thurman Thomas Jersey[/url] , or if we made the playoffs, that we had to be as good as Boston,” Cooper added.
”We beat them 4-0 (in the last meeting). I think that gave us a little hit of confidence. I guess a lot of confidence. … and, ultimately we carried that through into this playoff round.”
Brayden Point and J.T. Miller scored second-period goals and Anton Stralman added an empty-netter with 1:29 remaining to end any chance for a Boston comeback.
Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 27 shots – 14 in the final period – for the Lightning, who rebounded from losing the series opener at home to eliminate the Bruins in five games.
Boston won three of the four games between the teams during the regular season, finishing one point behind Tampa Bay for the Atlantic Division title and the No. 1 seed in the East.
The Bruins outlasted Toronto in seven games in the opening round of the playoffs. They scored six goals to beat the Lightning in Game 1, but had difficulty scoring after that.
Over the last three games, Boston failed to score an even-strength goal.
”You’ve got to give them credit. We’re a team that scored all year long with different players in and out of the lineup,” Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy said.
”We scored against Toronto, so it’s not like after 89 games we forgot how to score or not play the right way,” Cassidy added. ”I think their D corps is big and they move the puck. They did a good job of not allowing us to get inside.”
David Krejci scored on the power play in the final minute of the first period to give Boston a 1-0 lead that Point erased with his unassisted goal at 10:43 of the second.
Miller’s power-play goal broke the tie less than four minutes later, and Stralman added an empty-netter with 1:29 remaining.
”They’re a really good team. They have been all year,” Bruins winger Brad Marchand said. ”They compete extremely hard, they have a lot of speed. They were better than we were in a lot of areas, one of them being puck battles and their pursuit. It showed up in the end.”
One day after being put ”on notice” by the NHL for licking Lightning forward Ryan Callahan during Friday night’s overtime loss in Game 4, there were no more such incidents involving Marchand, who also made headlines after appearing to lick Toronto’s Leo Komarov in the first round.
Marchand was given an edict Saturday to stop licking opponents or subject himself to a possible fine or suspension for future incidents.
Cassidy said before the game that he had spoken with Marchand, delivering a simple, straight-forward message: ”We need you on the ice, we need you playing. If part of his M.O. is to annoy people [url=http://www.texanscheapshop.com/cheap-authentic-jadeveon-clowney-jersey]Jadeveon Clowney Jersey[/url] , find a different way to annoy them. Preferably by scoring some goals, that would be the best way.”
Afterward, Marchand shrugged off a question about his discussion the previous day with NHL senior vice president of hockey operations Colin Campbell.
”It is what it is,” Marchand said. ”I think it’s pretty stupid, the whole situation, but if that’s what they want to do, it’s what they want to do.”
The Lightning once again did a good job of containing Boston’s top line of Patrice Bergeron, David Pastrnak and Marchand. Although the trio combined for 23 points in the series (seven goals, 16 assists), about half that production (11 points) came in the Bruins’ 6-2 win in Game 1.
Bergeron and Charlie McAvoy assisted on Krejci’s goal, but Vasilevskiy came up big against the high-scoring line with four huge saves – one on Bergeron’s point-blank shot – in the closing minutes while Tampa Bay was killing off Boston’s last power-play opportunity.
The Bruins scored five goals over the final three games of the series, four of them on the power play and one short-handed.
”You can’t rely on special teams every night to win games,” Marchand said. ”They help for sure, but you have to be able to produce 5-on-5.”
NOTES: Bruins RW David Backes left the ice after taking a hard hit from Miller with just under eight minutes remaining in the second period. He did not return. … The Lightning improved to 5-1 in Game 5s when holding a 3-1 series lead. … Boston played without D Torey Krug, who injured his left ankle during Game 4. Nick Holden took over Krug’s spot, making his first appearance since Game 3 of Boston’s opening-round series against Toronto.
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