There’s never a single moment where everything ends. The end of one thing is the start of something else.
Matt Moore finally had it on Thursday afternoon. In the first inning, he worked a perfect inning with a strikeout. Moore walked Vernon Wells in the second inning, but he escaped without a run, striking out 2 more. He recorded his 4th strikeout in a 1-2-3 third inning, and then he retired the Angels in order in the 4th. The most impressive thing about Moore was his control. He was hitting his spots with his mid-90’s fastball, high-80’s changeup, and mid-70’s curveball, and hitters looked helpless against him.
At that point, I thought back to why Moore had struggled earlier in the season. The reason was the same reason he succeeded to begin the game on Thursday: his command, or lack thereof. I thought about how if Moore’s command wavered, because of all the velocity on his fastball, the ball would go out in a hurry. A second later, Moore missed with a 2-2 fastball to Mark Trumbo, leaving it middle-in, and sure enough Trumbo slammed it into the left field seats to end the no-hitter and shutout and tie the game at 1. Moore allowed another hit and a walk before the inning was through, showing clear signs of frustration, but escaped without any further damage. Moore rebounded to get 2 quick outs in the 6th, although the second out came after Albert Pujols single and was thrown out by Matt Joyce trying to stretch. But then Torii Hunter singled, bringing Trumbo back to the plate. And once again he delivered, slamming an RBI double to give the Angels a 2-1 lead, and he advanced to 3rd on a Ben Zobrist error. That was it for Moore as he was replaced by Burke Badenhop. Badenhop did his job, forcing Vernon Wells to hit a groundball, but the horizontal run on his sinker caused Wells to hit the ball more up the middle than the Rays expected, leading to an infield single that gave the Angels a 3-1 lead. Badenhop got a strikeout to escape futher trouble. Moore went 5.2 innings, allowing 3 runs, 2 earned, on 5 hits, striking out 6 while walking 2. 72 of his 100 pitches for strikes. His outing started so well but after the Trumbo home run, Moore became unnerved and left in line for the loss in the game.
In the first inning, it looked like the Rays were going to have a field day with Angels starter Jerome Williams. Desmond Jennings led off the game with a single and Ben Zobrist promptly doubled him home, giving the Rays a 1-0 lead. But Zobrist was picked off of second base and that changed the momentum in the game. Williams struck out Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria to end the first inning and allowed just 2 hits and 2 walks over the next 4 innings. But after he walked Luke Scott with 2 outs, he missed with a cutter and Matt Joyce drilled, slamming a triple to right to pull the Rays within 3-2.
Badenhop ended up going 2 innings, allowing no runs of his own while forcing 5 groundball outs, and Joel Peralta got the final out of the 8th. Scott Downs pitched a shutout 8th for the Angels. Brandon Gomes struck out 2 in a 1-2-3 ninth inning for the Rays, keeping them within 1 run entering the bottom of the 9th. Downs retired Matt Joyce on a groundball to begin the inning before the Angels brought in closer Jordan Walden. But B.J. Upton immediately delivered a single, putting the tying run at plate. Joe Molina was due up to the plate, but the Rays pinch-hit for him with the recently-acquired Brandon Allen.
Allen got ahead 2-1 before Walden left a fastball up and Alen hit a high flyball to left. The ball landed well foul and well short of the foul pole. But the next pitch was another misplaced fastball, and Allen didn’t miss this one. Allen drilled a bullet 2-run walk-off home run well into the right-centerfield seats, and the Rays won the game 4-3, clinching a sweep of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Gomes (1-1) earned the win while Walden (0-1) took the loss. The beginning and the end of this game was incredible. Moore was lights out and Allen stepped up. The middle got a little sketchy, but the Rays came away with a win and a 6-1 homestand. Up next for the Rays is a trip to Arlington where they’ll take on the Texas Rangers, fresh off 2 out of 3 from the Yankees. James Shields takes on Matt Harrison on Friday night. The Rays are hitting their stride and hopefully they can keep this going.