Left-hander Robbie Ray received a no-decision Wednesday that might have been a bit overshadowed in the high Single-A Potomac Nationals' 3-2 loss to Carolina at Pfitzner Stadium in Woodbridge, Va.
Ray did walk four batters, but did a very nice job of getting out of potential jams with seven strikeouts over five innings. He scattered four hits and allowed two runs. His pitches were so accurate at painting the edge of the plate that the Mudcats arguing of those close calls got a batter and their manager tossed on the same play. A subsequent called third strike to the next hitter also ended with an argument with the home plate umpire.
That is how perplexing Ray's pitches can seem and feel to a hitter.
But it also illuminates a larger point when looking at a prospect's growth at high Single-A. Ray was able to get out of a rough jam, where he had allowed some hits, runs and costly walks. He bore down, focused on the hitter at hand, and notched back-to-back strikeouts to get out of the jam. That is critical experience for a pitcher who is learning his craft and will help him immensely at the next level. He stayed focused, didn't lose his cool, and finished the job.
Ray's outing may not have received the top billing because of Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman's presence as he rehabbed his sore hamstring.
Zimmerman said Ray was dealing early on and he was impressed with the left-hander's stuff.
"He is good," Zimmerman said. "A lot of fastballs with good, easy motion. It comes out of his hand. I think he has a got a chance to be really good."
Ray has gone 2-1 with a 1.85 ERA in six starts with 41 strikeouts, 16 walks and just seven earned runs allowed.
It is going to be fun to watch Ray and the rest of the Potomac starters mature and get better this season. The Nationals, players and staff, certainly are on notice.