April 10, 2012; Detroit, MI, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Matt Moore (55) walks off the field after being relieved during the seventh inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-US PRESSWIRE

Game 9: Missed Opportunities Down Rays Again

The game’s lines tell it all. The Red Sox scored 6 runs on 8 hits, leaving five men on base. The Rays, meanwhile, scored just 4 runs despite 13 hits, leaving 10 men on base. That difference was juxtaposed directly between the second and third innings. In the second inning, the Red Sox got a single by Kevin Youkilis followed by a David Ortiz double, and immediately drove both of them home along with another run on a Cody Ross 3-run home run. In the top of the 3rd, Matt Joyce led off with a single and two batters later, Desmond Jennings doubled to give the Rays second and third with 1 man out.  But Carlos Pena followed with a strikeout and then Evan Longoria grounded out, leaving the Rays a 3-0 hole.

Matt Moore did not have any command. His fastball looked as good as ever in terms of velocity, averaging 94.6 MPH according to Brooks Baseball, but he continually missed over the heart of the plate and the Red Sox hitters took advantage. Moore had a solid changeup on the day, but his fastball’s struggles were amplified by the fact that he could not consistently get a feel on his breaking ball. Moore gutted it out, lasting 6.1 innings and 109 pitches despite allowing 6 runs, and he saved the Rays bullpen in the process. Even though Moore could not consistently get hitters out, it has to mean something that he showed the quality usually exhibited only by aces and veterans to survive without his best stuff and when needed, take one for the team. Moore struck out 5 while walking 4, 2 of which were intentional, and allowing 2 home runs. He had a tough day out there on the mound. Moore began the second inning with a radiant smile that could be seen well into the seats, but that smile was quickly wiped off his face. However, there are definitely positives to be taken from this start for Moore, and hopefully we will soon see the start where Moore has his arsenal at its best and can dominate opposing hitters. Moore is a rookie. We have to expect growing pains this season. But every start, even today, we see the beaming potential.

Going 4 for 13 with runners in scoring position simply won’t cut it. The Rays got a 2-run double by Carlos Pena, an RBI double by Evan Longoria, and a solo home run from Luke Scott, but that is all they could manage despite a barrage of hits and baserunners. The Rays stranded a runner in every inning but the 2nd and the 9th and left five runners in scoring position. There’s a certain amount of luck involved in that and we know the Rays can be better than that, but there were a couple of critical misplays. In the 4th inning, Jeff Keppinger led off the inning with a double, and two batters later, Sean Rodriguez hit a grounder to deep short that Mike Aviles was able to glove but could not throw Rodriguez out. But for some reason, Keppinger rounded third and headed for home, and Aviles was able to throw him out easily for the 3rd out. Either Keppinger himself or third base coach Tom Foley either thought the ball went past Aviles or incorrectly assessed the situation, and hopefully that won’t happen again too often.

In the 6th inning Luke Scott hit a game-tying home run off of Red Sox starter Felix Doubront to knot the game at 4, but it appeared like the Rays were far from done. Scott Atchison replaced Doubront and after allowing a bad-hop single to Sean Rodriguez, he walked Matt Joyce, missing on four straight pitches to give the Rays’ 1st and 2nd with nobody out. Chris Gimenez stepped up to the plate and quickly got ahead 2-0 as Atchison could not find the zone. It was seemingly an opportune time to bunt as a successful sacrifice would give the Rays the chance to take a 2-run lead with a base hit, but with Atchison missed the zone so often, it would have made sense for the Rays to take the bunt sign off. The next pitch was a slider out of the zone, but Gimenez failed to pull his bat back, making the count 2-1. Then he fouled a bunt off to pull the count even at 2-2. But the Rays persisted with their bunt signs, and Gimenez pulled another bunt foul and it wasn’t even close to strike out. That completely changed the inning and the Rays would fail to score a run.

The Rays had a frustrating game out there today. The offense got hit after hit, but not with runners in scoring position. Matt Moore had nice velocity but no command. And the result was a 6-4 loss when the Rays actually looked better than the Red Sox on Sunday. The Rays look to salvage a game of this four game set on Monday beginning at 11:05, with James Shields taking on Daniel Bard. The season is just beginning, but the Rays need Shields to live up to his “Big Game James” nickname and start a turnaround.

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Tags: Carlos Pena Chris Gimenez Cody Ross David Ortiz Evan Longoria Felix Doubront Luke Scott Matt Moore

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