LOS ANGELES — After using their top two starting pitchers in Wednesday night’s wild card win, the Diamondbacks will turn to Taijuan Walker to start Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers on Friday night at Dodger Stadium.
Zack Greinke started on Wednesday night in Phoenix, but was pulled during a fourth inning rally. Arizona’s No. 2 starter Robbie Ray, entered in the fifth inning and recorded seven outs, throwing 34 pitches. If everything goes as planned for the Diamondbacks, Ray would start Game 2 on Saturday, and potentially be lined up for a Game 5 start on regular rest.
“He’s been an elite pitcher all year long, so we’re certainly leaning in the direction of putting Robbie out there as quickly as possible,” manager Torey Lovullo said on Thursday. “But we’re going to make sure he’s okay first.”
Arizona plans to have Ray throw on Thursday and Friday to get a feel for his status, but it’s understandable they would prefer to have him available to potentially start twice in a five-game series against the Dodgers.
Ray put up a 2.27 ERA in five starts against the Dodgers in 2017, with 53 strikeouts, including four games of 10 or more strikeouts.
“We really haven’t cracked the code on Robbie Ray,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Tuesday. “If we do see him, we’ll have our hands full. It’s just a matter of having the right plan, and when he does make mistakes, we’ve got to be able to capitalize on it.”
Walker, a Yucaipa High School grad, had a 3.49 ERA in 28 starts for the Diamondbacks this year. This is his first postseason start.
“Kind of ranks up there with my debut, but I think this might be a little bit bigger than that,” Walker said. “I’m still trying to gather my emotions and stuff, but I think it should be fun.”
He was 2-0 with a 3.24 ERA in three starts against the Dodgers this year, with 17 strikeouts and five walks in 16⅔ innings.
“They know what I’ve got, and I kind of know what they’ve got, and I know their weaknesses,” Walker said. “So I think if I just follow my game plan, I think it should be good.”
Walker said he would leave Game 1 tickets for his immediate family.
“Just my family like my mom, my wife, my brothers and sister. That’s about it. Everyone else is on their own,” Walker said, laughing. “It’s a hot ticket.”