There goes our perfect season. After sweeping the New York Yankees to begin 2011, the Rays finally lost for the first time in the 2012 regular season, falling to the Detroit Tigers 5-2 on Tuesday afternoon.
They say in business “location, location, location.” That sounds like a nice game plan for a big league starting pitcher as well. Matt Moore‘s control and command were off on the cold afternoon on Tuesday that actually featured occasional snow flurries, so he had to survive with a different slogan “movement, movement, movement.” Moore threw just 59 of his 106 pitches for strikes but allowed just 1 run through 6.2 innings thanks to outstanding movement on his pitches. He was able to utilize the nice late bite on his fastball to force weak pop-ups and get out of trouble. Moore allowed just 4 hits on the day, the final of which was a game-tying solo home run by Austin Jackson, who gave Moore fits all day, seeing 24 pitches as he went 1 for 2 with the homer, 2 walks, and 2 run scored. The earlier run came in the third inning after the Tigers strung together a Jackson walk and a Brennan Boesch single and Jose Molina was unable to block a Moore changeup after the ball apparently hit off of home plate, allowing Jackson to trot home. On the day, Moore went 6.2 innings, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits, striking out 4 while walking 5 (1 intentional). His numbers weren’t pretty, but he got the job done. Hopefully he can have better command next start and showcase the dominating swing-and-miss stuff we’ve heard legends about from the minor leagues and saw firsthand when he struck out 14 Yankees in 5 innings in his first major league start.
The Rays jumped off to a 1-0 lead in the third after Reid Brignac and Desmond Jennings singled with 2 outs, Carlos Pena was hit by a pitch, and Evan Longoria worked a bases-loaded walk off of Rick Porcello. The Rays grabbed a 2-1 lead in the 7th after Jose Molina doubled (there was fan interference on the play), advanced to third on a Reid Brignac groundout, and scored on a Jennings infield single. That was all the Rays could get off of Tigers starter Rick Porcello, who matched Moore with 7 innings of 2-run ball, allowing 4 hits and 1 walk while striking out 4.
Moore exited following the game-tying blast by Jackson and was replaced by Jake McGee, who got out of the inning on a Boesch lineout. But McGee left a fastball up to Miguel Cabrera in the 8th, leading to a double, and Prince Fielder gave the Tigers the lead one batter later with a single up the middle. The Tigers added 2 runs later in the inning off of Burke Badenhop on a Jhonny Peralta sac fly (run charged to McGee) and a Gerald Laird RBI single to put the Rays in a 5-2 hole. Badenhop nearly escaped at 3-2 after forcing a groundball to short that could have been a double play had the Tigers not sent the runners at first and second, but pinch-runner Clete Thomas beat the throw to second, making the Peralta flyball just the second out and another run for the Tigers. 5-2 would be the final as the Rays went down quietly in the 9th against Tigers closer Jose Valverde. Phil Coke (1-0) earned the win for the Tigers while McGee (0-1) took the loss.
Moore survived with little command thanks to the outstanding movement on his pitches, but he finally missed badly on the Jackson homer in the 7th to force the Rays’ hand, and the bullpen simply imploded in the 8th inning. The Rays have to like the resiliency they saw from Moore this afternoon even after he faltered a bit in the 7th, but Jake McGee is a guy who really needs get on track and Badenhop got frustrated after the Tigers avoided a double play on the groundball he forced, and he needs to stay more composed in high pressure situations. The Rays showed some good signs on Tuesday afternoon, specifically from Moore, Desmond Jennings (2 for 4), and Reid Brignac (1 for 3), but the results were simply not there. The Rays look to rebound tomorrow afternoon against the Tigers with the marquee pitching matchup pitting James Shields against Justin Verlander.