Here's some bad news for the Carolina League: Robbie Ray has added a new weapon to his already impressive arsenal.
Mixing in a developing curveball, the Nationals' No. 10 prospect took a no-hitter into the seventh on Saturday night before Class A Advanced Potomac fell to Winston-Salem, 4-3, in 10 innings.
Ray walked two and hit a batter over the first three innings but settled in to retire 11 in a row heading to the seventh. After issuing a leadoff walk to Chris Curley, he gave up a single to Jeremy Farrell. A wild pitch moved both runners into scoring position before Ray struck out Mark Haddow. But Rangel Ravelo ended Ray's night with an RBI single.
Ray was charged with two runs on two hits and struck out nine -- one shy of a season high -- over 6 1/3 innings.
"He had everything going tonight," P-Nats pitching coach Chris Michalak said. "His fastball was firm, his curveball was very sharp and it was more of a power breaking ball tonight. He mixed in a good changeup, he had good command of all of them and it was fun to watch."
The curve is something of a new weapon for the 21-year-old southpaw, or at least a newly refined one, according to Michalak.
"The past couple of years, we had been working on whether a slider would be good for him or a curveball would be good for him," the former Major Leaguer said. "When he got to us, he threw both of them. We decided the curve would be a better pitch for him because of the life he has on his fastball; the curve would be a good change of pace.
"This Spring Training, we concentrated on it and it clicked in his last bullpen session and he was able to take it into the game tonight and show confidence in it. It's going to be a huge weapon for him."
Saturday was the first time this season that Ray has pitched into the seventh inning, although he went six in four of his previous eight starts.
"In defense of Robbie, in a lot of his starts he'd get to the sixth and he had a lot of punchouts," Michalak said. "For him to get into the seventh tonight, he had the no-hitter through six, it's huge for him, it's a big plus."
Ray is 3-2 in nine starts and leads the league with 64 strikeouts over 48 1/3 innings. He also ranks fourth with a 1.06 WHIP and 2.42 ERA. It's his second stint with Potomac after going 4-12 with a 6.56 ERA in 22 games last year.
"His biggest difference is last year in instructional [league], he made a little bit of a mechanical change and it's allowed him to be more consistent, and it's increased his velocity and made him a little more deceptive," Michalak said. "He's still young, and last year it was big jump for him. He competed every time out. The numbers may not have been in his favor, but every time we gave him the ball last year he went out there and competed.
"He realizes that he can compete and can compete at this level, and I think he had a ton of confidence coming in and he's taken the ball and ran with it so far."
With his early success, it's only natural to wonder how much longer Ray will be with the P-Nats.
"I can tell you I think Robbie's creating some big league habits as far as using his fastball and attacking hitters," Michalak said. "With the development of his breaking ball and his changeup, he's starting to put stuff together. He's on the right track."
Matt Grace followed Ray and gave up an unearned run on one hit over 2 2/3 innings. Richie Mirowski (3-3) recorded two outs in the 10th and took the loss after allowing one run on two hits.
Adam Heisler tripled with two outs in the 10th and scored the winning run on Joey DeMichele's single.