Ray fans 11 in complete-game shutout

No. 9 Nationals prospect scatters three hits over nine innings

Robbie Ray has struck out 119 batters over 98 innings this year. (Will Bentzel/MiLB.com)

By Ashley Marshall / MiLB.com | July 11, 2013 8:45 PM ET

What a difference a year makes.

Last season, Nationals pitching prospect Robbie Ray owned a 4-12 record and an unsightly 6.56 ERA.

Fast-forward 12 months, and it's like a completely different person out there on the mound.

Ray (2-0) scattered three hits and struck out a career-high 11 batters for his first complete-game shutout in the Double-A Harrisburg Senators' 7-0 win over the host Erie SeaWolves.

"This is definitely toward the top," Ray said of ranking his gem. "I had never thrown a CG shutout, and this was also with 11 strikeouts. Yeah, it's pretty near the top."

Washington's No. 9 prospect threw 77 of 107 pitches for strikes and issued two walks in lowering his Eastern League ERA to 0.64 in front of 2,987 fans at Jerry Uht Park.

The 21-year-old Tennessee native struck out the side in the fourth. He fanned two in the first, eighth and ninth innings and one in the third and seventh en route to the Senators' 11th shutout of the season.

The biggest test for Ray came in the seventh when Brandon Douglas and Daniel Fields recorded consecutive singles to start the frame and James McCann drew a two-out walk to load the bases. But Ray struck out Gaynor to end the threat before retiring the final six batters of the game.

"I felt really good. All my pitches were working for me, and me and my catcher Sandy Leon were on the same page all night," Ray said. "I think I shook him off once all night, and even then I came back to throw the same pitch.

"When I got two strikes, I was just looking to put them away. Early in the ballgame, my curveball was working well and I was using that to my advantage. I was just pitching to what my catcher was calling and it worked out."

It marked the fourth complete game of Ray's career, but the first time he achieved the feat without allowing a run.

He previously threw a five-inning complete game in Wilmington on May 8, a seven-frame complete game in Carolina in the second half of a twinbill on June 11 and a six-inning complete game in Wilmington in his final start for Potomac on June 29.

Ray can trace most of his recent success to minor adjustments he made this offseason.

"I changed my mechanics when I was down in High-A at the end of last year. I brought that into instructs and Spring Training and it seems to be working out for me," said Ray, who struck out 10 batters against Frederick on April 21. "I didn't have the best year last year, but it was a learning experience. Even though it was bad, it was also good because I needed to work on things.

"I have a slight turn when I bring my leg up and I turn my body to third base and toward the third-base dugout. I've also raised my arm angle from low three-quarter to high three-quarter and that helps me keep the ball in the zone and doesn't let the ball run to the arm side."

Harrisburg first baseman Justin Bloxom ripped three doubles, walked, scored three times and plated a run and shortstop Jason Martinson and second baseman Rick Hague each recorded two RBIs in the win.

"Bloxom was huge tonight with three doubles and Hague hit the home run early in the game," said Ray, selected by the Nationals in the 12th round of the 2010 Draft. "The bats were behind me, getting hits and driving in runs."

Erie starter Patrick Cooper (2-7) allowed five runs -- three earned -- on eight hits and two walks while striking out three batters over 4 2/3 innings.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AshMarshallMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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