January 30, 2023

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Ray again stung by one big inning

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BOSTON — In the majority of his nine starts this season, reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray has experienced that one big inning against him, despite solid results otherwise.

On Friday night at Fenway Park, that inning was the third when the Seattle starter surrendered all four of the runs he would allow on the evening, sending the Red Sox on their way to a 7-3 victory.

“Again, he’s been really solid, just that one inning is getting him, and that’s what we saw again tonight,” manager Scott Servais said. “It got away from him a bit there in the third inning with a couple walks and obviously Trevor Story has been hot as heck. He’s gotten his season going. Unfortunately, it’s happened the past couple days.”

In his last outing, Ray suffered through a four-run fourth inning, though the Mariners’ bats were able to bail him out for an 8-7 win over the Mets. Prior to that, he had a two-run fifth in a win vs. Philly, a four-run fourth in a loss to Tampa Bay, a three-run fifth in a loss to Miami, a two-run third in a no-decision vs. Kansas City and a four-run second in a loss to the White Sox.

Only twice has the left-hander been able to get by without having a multi-run inning sting him — his first start of the season vs. Minnesota and his third start vs. Texas, both wins for Ray.

Friday’s outing saw Ray work out of an early jam in the first inning, followed by a 1-2-3 second.

Christian Vázquez led off the bottom of the third with a single, and then Ray issued walks to Kiké Hernández and Xander Bogaerts to set the table for Story, who had smoked the Mariners for three home runs on Thursday night.

With two outs and a 1-2 count, Story struck again, sending an 87 mph slider into the Green Monster Seats for a grand slam that would be enough for the hosts.

“It’s super frustrating,” said Ray. “My last two starts, I felt really good. I feel like my stuff is really good. They took some really good pitches, and it seemed like this game — I always talk about the big inning — but this is one pitch.”

Ray (4-4) pitched six innings on Friday night and was able to wrangle three 1-2-3 frames. He also struck out eight batters on the night, giving him 58 punchouts on the season, good for fifth in MLB. It was the third straight start — and the fourth time in his last five — that he has struck out at least eight.

“I just have to stick with my process,” he explained. “Like I said, my stuff is really good, I’m still punching out eight, nine, 10 guys. The stuff is there. It’s a matter of one pitch and figuring out that one pitch, buckling down in that inning where things start to go haywire. Just breathe and stay calm.”

“Robbie’s stuff was fine,” added Servais. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. It’s just that one inning, and it’s become a common theme. He knows it. He’s frustrated by it as well. It sneaks up on him. And it’s not just one run, it’s a crooked number, and that’s what’s gotten us the last few times he’s been out there.”

Seattle scored two in the top half of the fifth inning on a two-run home run from Abraham Toro and another in the eighth on an RBI knock from Jesse Winker, but unlike Ray’s last start, they were unable to make up for their opponent’s one big inning.

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