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PHOENIX — Give Arizona left-hander Robbie Ray an “A” in self-evaluation.
Ray won his final six regular-season decisions in 2017 after missing a month with a concussion suffered when he was struck in the head by a line drive in St. Louis on July 28. Then last Wednesday [url=http://www.chicagobearsteamonline.com/kendall-wright-jersey]http://www.chicagobearsteamonline.com/kendall-wright-jersey[/url] , he spun six scoreless innings in a 2-1 victory over Florida in his first start after missing 58 days with an oblique injury.
Ray will face the Cardinals again on Monday, in the first game of a three-game series at Chase Field. Right-hander Carlos Martinez will start for the Cardinals.
“Obviously, I’m not going to go out there if I don’t feel 100 percent,” said Ray, a first-time All-Star in 2017.
“There is a constant line of communication between me and Torey (manager Lovullo). He was open with me. He wanted me to make another rehab start. I made it clear that I felt like I was ready. It felt good to be back on the mound and to be good to put up some zeroes for this team and help us win.”
Both Arizona and St. Louis enter the series after being swept, the Diamondbacks losing three to NL West rival San Francisco and the Cardinals dropping three to NL East-leading Atlanta.
That was only a slight hiccup for the Diamondbacks, whose 19 victories in June tied for the most in the majors. They led the majors with 11 triples and were second in runs in the month. Starting pitchers had 15 victories, also the most in the majors, capped by wins by Ray and Zack Greinke in the final two games of a four-game series in Miami early last week.
The D-backs have lost only two of their last 10 series [url=http://www.greenbaypackersteamonline.com/deshone-kizer-jersey]DeShone Kizer Jersey[/url] , both to San Francisco, while recovering from a 2-15 skid in May.
“You are going to have ups and downs,” Ray said. “That was a little bit of an extended down, but good teams find a way to break out of that. I feel like we’ve done that this month.
“It’s another thing we have going on. The dynamic in this clubhouse, we are never down on ourselves. Guys were in here playing music every single day. Nothing has changed. We understand that there is a process, and you have to stick with it. The second that you start changing who you are and over-analyzing a little bit, it can weigh on you.
“We just come in there every day like it’s a new day. We prepare every day the same way, and we don’t change anything.”
The Cardinals have been careening a bit. They have lost four in a row after winning four straight, a run that ended another three-game losing streak. They have lost 12 of 18 since peaking at eight games over .500 on June 11.
St. Louis has scored 11 runs in their last four games after clobbering Cleveland’s Corey Kluber [url=http://www.greenbaypackersteamonline.com/jaire-alexander-jersey]http://www.greenbaypackersteamonline.com/jaire-alexander-jersey[/url] , scoring six runs off his in 1 2/3 innings, the shortest outing of his major league career.
Martinez (4-4) won that game, his first in five starts since returning from the disabled list, giving up two runs with eight strikeouts in six innings. He had a 1.62 ERA in eight starts before going on the disabled list and has 6.75 ERA in five starts since returning. His issue has been walks, 43 in 72 2/3 innings.
The Cardinals have considered moving first baseman Jose Martinez to the outfield in an attempt to increase their run production, but Martinez started at first again Sunday.
“The bat has to be (in the lineup),” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny told reporters over the weekend. “You’ve got a guy who’s been as consistent as anybody we’ve had all season. So you’ve got to find a place for him.
“We’ve never ruled out the outfield. None of that is out of the question. We haven’t featured that yet but it’s something that has been in the conversation. He’s been doing work out there, too. But, right now [url=http://www.buffalobillsteamonline.com/kelvin-benjamin-jersey]http://www.buffalobillsteamonline.com/kelvin-benjamin-jersey[/url] , it’s how do we improve at first base?”
Carlos Martinez has had good success against Arizona, with a 2.88 ERA in eight appearances. That ERA ranks 20th among active major leaguers with at least 30 innings against the Diamondbacks. Martinez has been even more successful at Chase Field, with a 2.11 ERA, fifth among those with at least 20 innings.
Martinez has given up one homer against the Diamondbacks, that coming to Gerardo Parra in their first meeting. Since then, he has gone 33 1/3 innings without giving up a homer to them.
Ray (3-0) is 1-2 with a 4.60 ERA in four career starts against the Cardinals. He was removed after being struck by Luke Voit liner in the second inning of the July 28 start last season.
Running back Le'Veon Bell didn’t sign a long-term contract with the Steelers after getting the franchise tag in 2017 and stayed away from the team during training camp and the preseason before reporting ahead of Week One.
Bell got another franchise tag this year and again failed to agree on a long-term deal in Pittsburgh, which led to the expectation that he’d play things the same way this summer. During an appearance on Sirius XM NFL Radio on Tuesday, Bell’s agent Adisa Bakari confirmed that’s his client’s plan.
“Barring something exceptional … that is correct,” Bakari said.
Outside of the Steelers doing something to sweeten the pot for Bell during the 2018 season — he’s set to make $14.54 million — it’s hard to see what would change Bell’s plans at this point.
Bell struggled in the early weeks of the 2017 season [url=http://www.dallascowboysteamonline.com/leighton-vander-esch-jersey]http://www.dallascowboysteamonline.com/leighton-vander-esch-jersey[/url] , but went on to start the first 15 games before missing the regular season finale as the Steelers rested several players ahead of the playoffs. Bell led the league with 321 carries and finished the year with 1,291 rushing yards, 85 catches, 655 receiving yards and 11 overall touchdowns.
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