One year ago Robbie Ray was statistically one of the worst starting pitchers in the big leagues. .
Sunday afternoon Ray dominated again for the Blue Jays (TOR 8, OAK 0), holding the Athletics to one hit in 6 2/3 scoreless innings. He struck out 10 and walked three, and he has struck out 45 batters and allowed only four runs in his last four starts and 28 innings. Ray is the first pitcher in franchise history with four straight double-digit strikeout starts.
Ray was named the AL Pitcher of the Month in August after pitching to a 1.88 ERA with 52 strikeouts and only eight walks in six starts and 41 innings. Opponents hit .188/.235/.243 against him. Overall this season Ray owns a 2.60 ERA with 212 strikeouts in 166 innings. No AL pitcher has a lower ERA and only Gerrit Cole has more strikeouts (215).
Last season Ray allowed 40 runs in 51 2/3 innings with the Diamondbacks and Blue Jays. Despite that, Toronto rushed to re-sign him to a one-year contract worth $8 million over the winter -- it was the very first MLB transaction of the offseason -- and it has proven to be one of the best free-agent signings of the year. The best, I'd argue.
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The Blue Jays will not get so lucky this offseason. Ray could be in line for a contract similar to Zack Wheeler's five-year, $118 million deal with the Phillies. Wheeler signed the contract at the same age Ray is now (29), and both offered high-end power stuff with spotty backgrounds. Ray's performance has been up and down whereas Wheeler was oft-injured.
Coming into Sunday the Blue Jays were five games behind the second wild card spot with 28 games remaining. Qualifying for the postseason will be difficult if not impossible, but Toronto has a powerhouse offense and four above-average starters (Ray, José Berríos, Alek Manoah, Hyun-Jin Ryu). They'll be a real handful for opposing teams down the stretch.