PHOENIX -- Arizona left-hander Robbie Ray again looked like an ace Tuesday.
For an encore, the Diamondbacks turn the ball over to their proven ace, Zack Greinke, as they seek a series victory in the second contest of a three-game set against the San Diego Padres on Wednesday at Chase Field.
Greinke is tied for sixth in the National League with eight quality starts, including seven in his past nine outings. He is rediscovering the groove that earned him a six-year, $206.5 million contract prior to last season.
While doing so, he found a new way.
Greinke has thrown his slider more than ever this year, more than one-fourth of the time. It is the greatest rate of his 14-year career by about one-third.
Not only has Greinke gotten more swings on pitches outside the strike zone by percentage than at any point in his career this year, according to Fangraphs.com, but also opponents have made less contact against him this year than in any other.
Despite dropping about 1 mph in fastball velocity this season, Greinke is averaging 10.44 strikeouts per nine innings, a micro-notch lower than his best rate (10.54) while with Milwaukee in 2011 and the only time he has averaged more than 10 strikeouts per nine innings in a season.
"It was coming out perfect every time," Greinke said of his slider in mid-May. "Now it has just been good. Not as good as then, but the other pitches have been working, so you don't need to rely on just one pitch."
Greinke is 7-3 with a 3.06 ERA and an 0.98 WHIP in 11 starts. He pitched well in a 3-2 victory at Miami on Thursday, striking out eight in seven innings while giving up four hits and two runs (one earned). Greinke is 10th in the NL in ERA, fourth in WHIP and tied for fifth in strikeouts (92) with former teammate Clayton Kershaw.
He has had success against San Diego, going 9-2 with a 1.93 ERA in 18 career starts. Greinke has given up two runs against them in two starts this season but is 1-1 after losing a 1-0 compete game in San Diego on April 19, when he surrendered a homer to Erick Aybar in the eighth inning.
Aybar is 12-for-35 (.343) with five doubles, that home run and three RBIs against Greinke in his career.
Greinke will be up against Padres right-hander Luis Perdomo, who is 0-2 with a 5.01 ERA in nine starts. Perdomo has made quality starts in six of his last seven appearances, and he had his most effective start the last time out. He gave up one run and three hits in seven innings during a 2-1 victory over the Cubs on May 31.
His only hiccup in that stretch was against the Diamondbacks, when he gave up eight runs and 11 hits in three innings on May 20. He is 3-2 with a 4.76 ERA in eight appearances (four starts) against Arizona.
Perdomo will hope to get some offensive support from Hunter Renfroe, who had his second career two-homer game Tuesday. The right fielder leads NL rookies with 13 homers, and he is second with 29 RBIs.
"The power has never been in doubt," San Diego manager Andy Green said of Renfroe. "It is just consistently working to positive counts. You see growths in at-bats that don't end the way you want them to. Obviously, he squared two baseballs up really well, and he has that in him."