Posted on August 15, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine

Arizona Diamondbacks Robbie Ray
Image via ESPN.com

The Arizona Diamondbacks are barely hanging on in the National League Wild Card race and they may have just been dealt a potentially fatal blow. The club placed left-handed starter Robbie Ray on the 10-day Injured List Thursday. The move comes one day after Ray left a start after just two innings because of back spasms. The Diamondbacks went on to lose the game in heartbreaking fashion and have now lost Ray for the foreseeable future.

“I don’t want it to turn into something that is a bigger issue than what it was,” Ray said of the back problems that forced him out of Wednesday’s game against the Rockies. “I don’t think it’s that big of an issue, but I just want to be smart about it. I’m just going to get some treatment on it and take it day by day.”

Arizona hasn’t put a timetable on Ray’s return. They are obviously hoping for the best, but the issue was serious enough to put Ray on the IL. After only getting two innings out of him on Wednesday, even a brief stay on the IL could cause Ray to miss two or three more starts. Given their place in the standings and how much time is left in the season, two or three fewer starts from Ray could be a lot to overcome.

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The Diamondbacks began Thursday only 3.5 games out of a Wild Card spot. However, they would need to pass four teams in the standings in order to get there. Despite trading away ace Zack Greinke at the trade deadline, Arizona isn’t completely out of contention. But it’s clear that it will be an uphill battle for the Diamondbacks to claim a Wild Card spot for the second time in three years.

After the Diamondbacks traded Greinke in late July, Ray has become the team’s de facto ace. Over his 26 starts this season, the lefty is 10-7 with a 3.99 ERA. He’s brought some much-needed stability to a rotation that didn’t get anything positive from Zack Godley this season and looks even younger now that Greinke has been traded. In other words, Ray was one of the last players on their roster they could afford to lose for any period of time.

Jon Duplantier, who was recalled from triple-A on Thursday, is likely to take Ray’s spot in the starting rotation. He made three starts for Arizona earlier this year with minimal success. On the bright side, the D’Backs acquired veteran Mike Leake to help pick up the slack for Greinke. Rookies Zac Gallen and Alex Young have also pitched well, helping to keep Arizona above .500 and in the playoff conversation.

If Leake, Gallen, and Young can keep the Diamondbacks afloat for the next couple of weeks, they may be able to make things interesting in September. In addition to Ray coming back, both Luke Weaver and Taijuan Walker are working their way back from injury. One or both could rejoin the team for the stretch run with Weaver being a little further ahead in his recovery at the moment.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that Weaver and Walker will be healthy enough return by the end of the season. There’s also a chance both will only be able to pitch out of the bullpen. But the Diamondbacks have reason to believe that their pitching staff could receive a meaningful boost the final month of the season. They just have to find a way to survive for a little while after sending their new ace to the IL.

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