ST. LOUIS – Robbie Ray’s blood-stained hat and black glove sat on a folding table a few steps inside the Diamondbacks’ clubhouse on Friday night, a grim reminder of the terrifying scene that unfolded hours earlier at Busch Stadium. But for as bad as it looked, the early indications are that it could have been worse.
Ray was struck on the head by a line drive and carted off the field during the bottom of the second inning, but manager Torey Lovullo said a CT scan on Ray came back clean. He did not suffer a fracture and needed only a few stitches to the left side of his head.
Ray returned to the clubhouse, showered, spoke with a handful of teammates and went to the team hotel before the end of the game, which the Diamondbacks lost 1-0 to the St. Louis Cardinals.
Though Ray will need to go through the league’s mandatory concussion protocols in the coming days, it was all viewed as encouraging news for a team that spent the better part of the evening worried about the health of one of its top pitchers.
“We got a call in the eighth inning that he had been released from the hospital and that was, like, a huge relief for me,” reliever Archie Bradley said. “Baseball is really the last thing on your mind at that point.”
With one out in the bottom of the second, Ray threw a first-pitch fastball to the Cardinals’ Luke Voit, who lined it back through the middle. Ray turned away, but the ball – which came off Voit’s bat at 108 mph – struck him on the side of the head and ricocheted into foul territory. Incredibly, third baseman Daniel Descalso scrambled after it and made a diving catch before popping up and rushing to the mound.
Ray went down, his hands covering his head, and Lovullo, pitching coach Mike Butcher and trainer Ryan DiPanfilo hurried onto the field. With a towel covering his head, Ray sat up after a couple of minutes. His hands were covered in blood.
A few minutes later, he sat on a cart, gave a fist bump to catcher Chris Herrmann, then was driven off the field, giving a wave to fans before disappearing into a tunnel down the right-field line.
“You’re holding your breath,” Lovullo said of the immediate moments after the injury. “It’s tough. Those are things you never forget. I got out there and he was on his back and his eyes were open. That was the first thing that I saw, and I was very grateful for that.”
Lovullo said the club was “hung over” for several innings thereafter, but sometime in the late innings, trainer Ken Crenshaw relayed word to the dugout that Ray’s tests came back clean. Reliever T.J. McFarland, who replaced Ray in the game, was among those who spoke to his teammate after he returned from the hospital.
“He sounded good,” McFarland said. “He was in good spirits. He’s going to be all right.”
A prolonged absence for Ray would be a significant loss for the Diamondbacks. At times this season, Ray – who was named to his first All-Star team earlier this month – has been the club’s best starter. In 20 starts, he has a 3.11 ERA in 118 2/3 innings.
“We’ll know more in the coming days about what we’re going to do,” Lovullo said. “He never lost consciousness. He was answering questions. He was alert. He came back here, showered and he’s back at the hotel resting right now. It’s as positive as it can be.”
McFarland lasted 3 2/3 innings, giving up an unearned run in the sixth that turned out to be the difference. Tommy Pham reached on a Descalso error, stole second, took third on a ground out and scored when Jedd Gyorko shot a run-scoring single to center off Rubby De La Rosa.
Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks’ offensive woes continued. They put a runner in scoring position in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings and came up empty each time. They had second and third with none out for the heart of their order in the eighth, but A.J. Pollock struck out, Ketel Marte was thrown out at home on David Peralta’s grounder to second, and Paul Goldschmidt went down swinging.
Cardinals reliever Trevor Rosenthal, who inherited the two-on, none-out jam, recorded all three outs, then retired the side in order in the ninth.
“We put ourselves in a position to tie the game and go ahead, and give credit to their guys,” Descalso said. “They made big pitches when they had to.”
But the outcome felt secondary to what happened in the second inning, and the Diamondbacks seemed relieved things turned out the way they did.
“Thank goodness,” Lovullo said, “everything turned out OK.”
Reach Piecoro at (602) 444-8680 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @nickpiecoro.